Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37
First Reading: The Book of Sirach is a collection of wise sayings that help humans order their life and make right decisions. These sayings have been handed on within the community. Sirach offers a series of choices, starting with the fundamental choice to keep the commandments of God.
Psalm 119: Psalm 119 is by far the longest prayer in the Psalter. It focuses on God’s law and uses eight synonyms for the law which, when added together, equal 174 references to God’s law. In spite of its focus on the law, the psalm is not legalistic.
Second Reading: Today’s second reading connects the notion of wisdom in this reading with the reading from Sirach and the psalm. Paul speaks of the wisdom of God which has been hidden from all time and which will be revealed in the time to come, the end time. This wisdom is not available to rulers of this age, or they would not have crucified “the Lord of glory.”
Gospel: After hearing the Beatitudes last week and Jesus speaking in the third person, He continues now with a direct address, teaching that their blessedness also entails the mission to be salt and light.
Reflection: Today we continue in the part of Matthew’s Gospel that we call the Sermon on the Mount: a collection of Jesus’ teaching that Matthew has woven together in one carefully constructed discourse. In today’s section, Jesus expresses profound respect for his Jewish tradition, a tradition he both interprets and fulfills.
On first read, we may find the sayings introduced with “you have heard” and “but I say” implying that Jesus is abrogating the Jewish law, but that is not necessarily the case. What is happening is that Jesus takes a teaching and goes to its root meaning. In this lengthy discourse, he demonstrates that the sin of murder has its roots in anger and disrespect of another. Adultery, which was understood at that time as an offense against the husband whose property had been abused by another, has its roots in looking at someone as an object of self-gratification rather than as a person and image of God. Thus, it is better to lose an eye or hand than disdain another person.
No law – whether divine or human – can cover all the right choices we are to make as we journey through life. Both the Gospel and the first reading point to more that is needed: “trust in God,” right choices that bring life to ourselves and others, relying on the wisdom and understanding of God who knows us better than we know ourselves. Our own choices for good – for life – can only come when we open ourselves to God’s guidance and wisdom. In this is the promise of fullness of life.
Again, Jesus never says that we should ignore the law. Rather, he does challenge us to go beyond the face of the law to redefine the way we live and relate to God and each other. Thus, Jesus challenges us to live God’s law in such a way that we are choosing the fullness of life that God offers us.
Question for Reflection: How do I live the spirit of the law in my discipleship? In my relationship with others?
Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.