Gospel Reflection for 16th February 2020 The 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Heart of the Matter
The Scribes and Pharisees never missed an opportunity to attack and criticise Jesus. They just didn’t like the people with whom he ate, drank and befriended; the poor, the sick, the outcast, those they considered to be sinners. But Jesus in return was never in shy in challenging them for their behaviour.
In the gospel today, he directly condemns them for their strict observance of the law while ignoring the heart of the Law; love, mercy and compassion. For them virtue and daily living was largely measured by what others saw them do and heard them say. They liked to show off and win the approval of others on whom they looked down self-righteously. Jesus directly to say to the people; if your virtue goes no further than that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ Strong and challenging words indeed!
Then Jesus explains the real heart, demands and challenges of the Law; it’s not about keeping up appearances; it’s not a matter of the head, it’s all about the heart. Following the Law then and following Jesus now are about how we treat others. Jesus says that if we are about to pray and then realise and remember that we are not peace with someone, we are to stop praying, be reconciled with them and then return to pray! He says that while the law says that adultery is wrong, Jesus goes further. He says that just looking at someone inappropriately is wrong! So Jesus has not come to do away with the law, but the every opposite; he going to take it as far it can go! He is going to put heart and soul back into the Law. For the Pharisees and the Scribes, being faithful to God was about what they could do and not to do, what they could get away with and not get away with it! It was very minimalist. They kept (or broke) the Law on their own terms as long as it suited them. Jesus often called them ‘hypocrites’. This word comes from the ancient world of acting. The actor wore a mask which let them do and say things for which they were not responsible.
The danger is that we think that what Jesus is saying in the gospel does not apply to us today. As Christians and Catholics we have the ten commandments, the scripture and the teachings of the Church. We are called to live by these teachings in our daily lives. But, we also need to be aware that it isn’t just matter of ‘do’s and don’ts.’ We have to be careful that we don’t lose the heart of what we are called to believe and live by. Like the Pharisees we are not to reduce the teachings of our faith or belief to the bare minimum or just the basics.
For Jesus, genuine virtue and discipleship is a matter of the heart. Jesus calls us to have a decent, honest and authentic relationship with him and with each other. I am not to say I believe one thing and then do the very opposite; I am not to be a hypocrite.
Take a moment of silence today and simply pray; Lord, may what I believe in my heart and profess with my lips, be seen in the work of my hands and in the quality of my daily life.
-Br Michael Moore OMI
Gospel for February 16th : Matthew 5:17-37 ©
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great 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 those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the guard and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to 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 anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 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 your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
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