Scripture: Lectionary # 77. 6th Sun. ord time A: Sirach 15:15-20. Psalm
119:1-2.4-5.17-18.33-34. I Corinthians 2:6-10. Matthew 5:17-37
Matthew gives us the first great sermon of Jesus which we know as the
Sermon on the Mount. It consists of chapters 5-7 and is the first of five
great sermons on the part of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. We have heard
again and again that this Gospel is the most Semitic of the four in its
expressions, examples, and structure having a great love for fives
reflected also in the collection of divinely inspired books called the
Torah.Matthew gives us the portrait of Jesus as a great rabbi, that is a
teacher, who is seated while giving us this first of five sermons.
There is a great respect for the Torah in Matthew and Jesus himself
reflects that when he tells us he has not come to destroy any part of it
but to fulfill it. He will not even take away one of yods (think of our i)
nor of a tittle (think of a punctuation mark). That is he will dot his i’s
and cross the t’s in the Torah. Jesus as the preacher of this sermon
gives it a new interpretation by departing from the traditional ones. He is
led by the Holy Spirit to go to the inner meaning of the Torah and its
compassionate encouragement for us to be at our best at all times in the
spirit of the commandments and their meaning in reference to our neighbor.
As we listen we see that it is the fifth, sixth, and eighth commandment
that are implied in this passage. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves
in these areas. They are life-giving when we live them out in the spirit
in which God meant them and in the way Jesus interprets them. For example,
would there be adultery and raping if we listened to the lesson of not
lusting after someone’s erotic love? Would there be murders and backbiting
if we controlled our anger and our jealousy? Do we always have to make
excuses for ourselves when it comes to temptation and rationalize to the
point of making it a sin? It seems that Jesus is building a hedge around
the Torah commandments to make sure they are secured and protected and
observed by all who know of them.
We know that St. Paul has a different interpretation of the Torah or Law
than Matthew’s Jesus. Personally, we would make better progress if we
observed the spirit of both Matthew and Paul and not worry about the
different slant each has. The commandments are extremely important in a
society like ours if we are to make any progress in human relationships.
They are summed up in the laws of love both in the Mosaic covenant and the
covenant that Jesus has given us. We need both covenants just as we need
both testaments. You cannot have one without the other.
It seems that on a Sunday it is best for us both the homilist and the
listeners to reflect first upon the Gospel and then on the other readings.
We will then be able to see how the first reading and the Gospel complement
each other and then see that the Psalm and its response helps us to pray
both readings without getting lost in exegetical exactness which could
distract or take us away from our prayer of the heart.
Yes, the words of Jesus are quite demanding. He sees the commandments in
the light of righteous living and integrated maturation of those who follow
God and Jesus. He sees them in the virtues they inspire us to live out:
patience, mildness, justice, purity of thought and heart, integrity in our
dealings with others, and certainly reconciling ourselves with those whom
we may have hurt, cheated, or been angry with. The strong image of not
offering our gifts on the altar until we are reconciled with our neighbor
is a very powerful image that helps us in our approach to the Eucharist and
the sign of peace. Respect for God’s Name is so important too for it means
his very person. Baruch ha Shem! means Blessed be God! Amen.