Sir 15: 15-20, I Cor 2: 6-10, Mt 5: 17-37
A pastor places his order at the pet store. “I need at least 25 Bats, 50 mice, 2,000 ants and as many of those little silverfish you can get.” The clerk replies, “We can probably do that, but it might take some time. Mind if I ask why you are placing such an unusual order?” The pastor replies, “I’ve accepted a call to another church and the church council told me (as per the law) to leave the parsonage the way I found it.”
Someone said, Laws are meant for the guidance of the wise and the obedience of fools. I am not taking about man made laws but divine laws. Today’s readings challenge us to choose freely and wisely to observe the laws given by a loving and caring God. He revealed His laws through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament and through His own Son, Jesus, in the New Testament.
For the Israelites, the Torah was not a set of laws but the instruction or teaching intended to promote the holiness and wholeness of each believer. It was the revealed will of a caring God for the people with whom He had made His covenant. How can a loving God make laws which are bad for us? God’s love for us is made practical by his laws. Hence his laws last longer than those who break them. Those who go on breaking them will pay for it. They may not pay weekly, but they will pay for it at the end. In a sense, no one can break the laws of God; we can lonely break ourselves against them. Therefore today’s first reading clearly tells us, “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”
Those who obey the law, live; otherwise they die. Because God’s laws are an expression of his friendship and of his concern for his people, Jesus proclaimed (Mt 5:17) that he had come not to abolish the laws but to fulfil them. Jesus fulfilled all of God’s laws when he sacrificed his very life on the cross for love of God and the human race, a love that sums up all laws and perfects them. In so doing, he called us his followers also to seek as he did a deeper and inner kind of holiness, rather than the mere external observance of the laws.
This means that not only crimes of violence like murder are forbidden but also harboring of any anger, which is the root cause of murder; not only the act of adultery must be shunned, but even lustful thoughts which are the seeds from which plants of adultery grow. Likewise, not only false oaths must be avoided but also any dishonest motive behind our words (Mt 5:21-37). By this new teaching, Jesus is challenging us to become as holy as God our Father is holy.
One might ask, is it possible to become as holy and as perfect as God is? Many would probably place such perfection in the realm of fantasy. Yet, it is better to strive for this ideal and fall short than never to have tried at all. Besides, we are not left to struggle towards perfection all by ourselves. Through Christ we have received “God’s wisdom, a mysterious, hidden wisdom, which eye has not seen, ear has not hear, but planned by God before all ages for our glory (I Cor 2:7). What is this wisdom? It is the spiritual eye that can see the effects of God’s love and saving power working in us through Christ’s redemption. We are called to use it.
Jesus is calling all his followers to be different, calls us to be more than ordinary people. He has called them to be like himself. The morality that Jesus taught his followers can never entertain the question, how far can I go before I sin? It can only entertain the question how much more can I do because I love my God? And so the message of the today’s gospel may be stated this way: Jesus has called his followers to live their ordinary lives in an extraordinary way, just as he himself did. It is better to strive for this ideal and fall short than never to have tried at all.