Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. Psalm 119:1
you gave the law to guide our lives:
grant that we may never shrink from your commandments,
but, as we are taught by your Spirit,
may fulfil your law in perfect love;
through Christ our Lord and Master,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen.
- Deut 10:12-22
- Psalm 119:1-8
- 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
- Matthew 5:21-37
- Exodus 24:12-18
- Psalm 2
- 2 Peter 1:16-21
- Matthew 17:1-9
“… if you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Today’s Gospel is the first indication of trouble between Jesus and the leaders of the Jews. The role of the scribes evolved from that of recorders and codifiers of the Torah into that of interpreters of the specific rules and regulations of the Torah. The Pharisees, the “separated brethren,” removed themselves from everyday activity in order to keep the Law assiduously, thereby serving as a model to the Jewish people who held them in great esteem.
While the scribes and Pharisees were extreme legalists in their interpretation of the Law, Jesus is the ultimate supra-legalist. He takes their legalities a step further: The Spirit of God, which gives life and meaning to the Law, transcends the letter of the Law. Jesus preaches that we cannot be satisfied with merely avoiding the act of murder but must also curb the insults and anger that lead to murder; we cannot be satisfied with justifying separation and estrangement but must actively seek reconciliation and forgiveness; we cannot be satisfied with just fulfilling contracts in order to avoid being sued but must seek to become honest and trustworthy persons in all our dealings. Jesus comes to teach an approach to life that is motivated neither by edict nor fear but by the recognition and celebration of the humanity we share with all men and women.
For Jesus, the human heart is decisive. It is the “new” Law’s emphasis on the attitude of the heart that perfects and fulfils the principles and rituals of the “old.”
By our compassion and caring for others, by our ethical and moral convictions, by our sense of awareness and gratitude for all that God has done for us, we do the great work of passing on the Gospel of reconciliation and justice – and God is with us as we struggle to figure out and explain the complexities and struggles of life for the benefit of ourselves and our children and those who overwhelmed by it all who come to us for help.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of “fulfilling” the Law — not abolishing it. Jesus seeks to restore the spirit of mercy, justice and reconciliation that gives meaning and direction to every just legal code, challenging us to look beyond legalisms and social and cultural yardsticks — and our own narrow interests — to recognize people in need and our responsibility as followers of Jesus to seek them out, to advocate for them, to welcome them.
Faith begins in the heart, Jesus says. What we say, what we do, what we decide, are all responses to the God who speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, the God in whose image and likeness we have been created. Christ speaks not of rules and regulations but the much deeper and profound values of the human heart.
The truth is not contained in laws, oaths, statistics or rituals but in the Spirit of God that prompts us to make the decisions we make, the wisdom that leads us to the enactment of just laws and the celebrations of rituals that meaningfully remember and celebrate God’s great love for us.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asks us to consider the weight and meaning of what we say – and to realize the chasm that often exists between our words and our actions. © Connections/MediaWorks
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