6th.Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. (Feb. 12, 2023): Sir 15:15-20, I Cor 2:6-10, Mt 5:17-37.
“…If you chose you can keep the commandments…”, say the Lord.
Today’s readings challenge us to choose freely and wisely to observe the laws given by a loving and caring God. Ask a group of high school students for their definition or understanding of obedience, and you will be greeted with lots of complaints and grumblings. Youth/children of this age, often feel like their loves are spent doing nothing, but obeying their parents, teachers, and older siblings. Being obedient to God/the Church, is one more requirement in their apparent rigid experience of life. Hence, to them, obedience is usually a list of rules-“DO’S AND DON’T’S”- that govern their every action. Perhaps even as adults this is our experience of work life or of religion, and right relationship with God. And as a result, many ardent and faithful Catholics have left the Catholic Church. In today’s gospel, however, Jesus smashes these expectations, and connotations, and sets the record straight. While the fear of being condemned to hell has motivated many Catholics to follow the Ten Commandments, and other pieces of the Catechism, the Church has slowly but surely, moved past fear and power-driven motivators, in favor of a focus on healthy relationships with oneself, the Community, Creation, and ultimately, God.
Q= What would our faith look like if our focus was truly on the motivation BEHIND, the
rules and regulations, rather than the LAW, itself?
To be clear, Jesus does not imagine a superhuman life without any emotion or temptation; instead, he describes how his disciples are called to defuse anger and pursue reconciliation in our broken relationships. Scripture Scholar, Barbara Reid writes: “Killing another person, is the epitome of broken relationships”. Thus when a relationship is beyond repair, broken rather than damaged, our anger is prone to be out of control and therefore damaging-not just to our neighbor, but to ourselves, God, and the entire body of Christ, to which we belong. Consider both the private and public spaces, in which anger is typically expressed! Whether expressed in a rant or text to a friend, or a post on social/print media, anger is both a symptom and a root cause of damaged relationships, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Hence today, Christ challenges his followers to exercise detachment and healthy boundaries, so that emotions do not control us, and cause more harm in our lives. In short, if
our anger or lust comes about and overwhelms us, that is a sign to examine our relationships and motivations. This means, obedience is not simply following a list of rules out of obligation; it springs forth from love, trust, and faithful relationship with another.
Conclusion: Through Sirach, the Lord says: “If you choose you can keep the commandments. If you trust in God, you shall live. To whichever you choose, FIRE OR WATER, stretch forth your hand! God’s grace enables us to ‘observe’ his law and keep it with all your heart.” This means, we stretch forth our hands to the Fire of the Holy Spirit, and to the Water of our baptism, letting our “YES” mean “YES”, and “NO” mean “NO”. Eventually, those whose refuse to let lust master them; who are quick to reconcile with their brother or sister; and who teach and obey the Commandments, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This, for Jesus, is the “RIGHTEOUSNESS” that surpasses that of the Pharisees!