Reflection for Sunday – February 12, 2017

Readings: Sirach 15: 15-20; 1 Corinthians 2: 6-10; Matt 5: 17-37
Preacher: M. Lourdes Perez-Albuerne

The passage we read in today’s Gospel from Matthew was written for his community of Jews converted to Christianity. Matthew insisted that the community had to continue keeping Jewish law, even the smallest of the laws, but wants them to understand that the letter of the law has to be carried out in everyday practice; if not it would be hypocrisy.

These explanations then, should lead them to understand how Jesus’ teaching on justice—based on love of God and neighbor—transcends the demands of Moses’ law. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to talk against the strict interpretation of the law by the Pharisees. He came to teach us how we have to interpret the old law, or any other law, from the commandment of love.

Jesus did not come to give us some new law or to add to the old ones, he came to teach us how to interpret the law considering its spirit. The language is necessary to communicate the principle, but the value comes from the spirit by which it is carried out, and there is only one spirit: love of God and neighbor. Jesus kept the law of Moses —and radicalized it.

Jesus wants his followers to have mercy, which Pope Francis emphasizes, not only externally but internally. Only in that way can we talk of following the law. The Gospel today uses four instances to show us how to interpret several laws.

In the first instance Jesus talks about the law that prohibits killing, but he also talks about anger. He tells us that life is sacred and nobody has the right to take it away. He expands the law, telling us that any kind of violence, physical or moral, is an attempt on our neighbor’s life. Jesus wants us to resolve our conflicts, both individually and communally, by peaceful means. It is necessary to develop peace and solidarity to fullest extent so that we can guarantee the respect for life and the integrity of our neighbors. Are we defenders of life?

In the second instance, Jesus addresses adultery, and brings it from the external act to the internal intent. He teaches us that the sin is committed not only when the sexual act is performed, but can be committed with our looks or our thoughts. It is in our
conscience that human beings make decisions and Jesus asks us to be vigilant, since God knows all our thoughts. Do we take careful care of our thoughts?

In the third instance Jesus talks about divorce. He invites us to consider the essence of God, three in one, indistinguishable from eternity, and he says that since we are made to God’s image and likeness, matrimony should follow that example. Is this the way we look at matrimony, or do we consider it just a temporary commitment and when it doesn’t work out the way we think it should, we dump it?

Finally, Jesus talks to us about the loyalty that should rule our interactions with our neighbor. We do not have to use God as a witness to what we are saying or doing. Our yes or no, given from our sincerity in actions, should be sufficient to rule our relations. Is this the way we conduct ourselves when we relate to others in our professional or personal interactions?

Both the society in which we live and the Church to which we belong have their own laws. We should respect both, as Jesus respected the law of Moses, but they should not be falsely kept or interpreted as the Pharisees did. What is sad in our age is that we can appear to be a just person, yet be unjust in our relations to others. We do not kill a person, but we do kill their reputation with our gossip or let those who are hungry die of hunger…We can take an oath and then lie…We can go to Church every Sunday and even receive the body of Christ, but with our consumerism we oppress our sister or brother who creates those items we buy.

For a Christian the real law is the law of love. We have to be very conscious that we have chosen not a set of laws, but a person: Jesus the Christ.

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Lourdes Perez Albuerne
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