GOD’S LAW IS MUCH, MUCH MORE THAN A SET OF RULES THAT WE MUST FOLLOW
(A biblical refection on THE 6th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 12 February 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:17-37
First Reading: Sirach 15:15-20; Psalms: Psalm 119:1-5,17-18,33-34; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-10
The Scripture Text
“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or “No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:17-37 RSV)
To the people who opened their lives to Him, Jesus revealed the full understanding of God’s commandments. He taught that God’s law is much, much more than a set of rules that we must follow. God’s law is a principle of love, humility, and justice that He brings to life within us. It is an interior principle of goodness that necessarily changes our outward behavior.
If we want to experience such a transformation, we must be careful not to let impurity take hold of our lives. One of Jesus’ main desires in His Sermon on the Mount was to turn His hearers’ attention inward, to point them to their own hearts. He wanted them (and us) to see what desires and prejudices block the flow of His Father’s love and mercy. What remains dark within us that needs the light of Christ? Jesus knows that if we allow ourselves to be governed by God’s love, that love will overflow into outward acts.
Using three examples, Jesus unfolded the potential of the commandments given so long ago. God’s law against murder, adultery, and false oaths express His intention that we be free not only of these sinful acts, but also of the hatred, lust, and deceptiveness that can root themselves in our hearts. God created us for love, and He has always wanted our hearts to be free from evil desires once Jesus’ grace takes up residence within us.
Throughout His life, Jesus longed to bring God’s plan to completion – to fill us with divine life and love. Through His obedience to the Father, Jesus has opened the way for us to receive this promise. As we draw near to Jesus in prayer and ponder His words in scripture, we will take on His character. Our hearts will be filled with His light, and our actions will reflect that light to everyone we meet. What a promise is ours in Christ!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I commit my life to You. By Your Spirit, drive out the darkness in my heart so that I may always act according to the beauty and perfection that You have revealed in Your Son Jesus. Amen.
Jakarta, 10 February 2017
A Christian Pilgrim