2/12/2023 (Sunday) Today’s gospel reading: Matthew 5:17-37
Jesus said to his disciples:
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,
24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.
26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.
28 But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29 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 to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
30 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 to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
31 “It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
32 But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.
34 But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
35 nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
36 Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
37 Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”
2/12/2023 (Sunday) Today’s gospel reflection: Matthew 5:17-37
The gospel reading above forms part of the Sermon on the Mount that started with the Eight Beatitudes followed by the exhortation to become salt and light of the world. With the above verses, Jesus continues to elaborate His point of view on specific behavior with profound ethical consideration. Although some people are still debating on the “proper” application of these teachings to specific situations, all that Jesus clearly wants of us is to be holy as the heavenly Father is holy. Jesus Himself gave this brief summary at the end of the chapter (Matthew 5:48). In other words, He wants us to be determined in our pursuit of holiness, that is, with relentless care of everything that we think, say, or do so that we become a true image of our creator.
In verse 20, Jesus is emphatic in telling us that “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”. He meant that we must not just follow the commandments literally but with the spirit of love. We all know how the scribes and Pharisees were meticulous in trying to observe all the precepts of Moses in their detailed application. Yet Jesus is trying to tell us that holiness is much more than that. After all, Jesus is a more authoritative law-giver than Moses. That is why, He keeps on repeating, “it is said of old…but I tell you…”. Indeed, if we truly listen to Jesus, all the laws of Moses will find their fulfillment.
Yet these teachings aren’t as easy to follow as ABC. Take for example, Commandment No. 6 which is the prohibition against killing. Jesus expounds this law to include not getting angry or to tell others, “You fool!”. Otherwise we will be thrown into hell. Or Commandment No. 7 which is the prohibition against adultery. Again, Jesus expounds it by including lust as a form of adultery and that divorce may cause a married person to commit adultery. Is there anyone who can control his or her lustful eyes and mind? Moreover, He says that there must be reconciliation before worship and that we must keep our words by being of one heart and one mind in all of our commitments.
With all of these teachings, we may be tempted to wonder if we can still follow all of them. Like the disciples of Jesus, we may ask, “who then can be saved?” (Luke 18:26, John 6:60). Scripture has claimed that Jesus came to save and not to condemn (John 3:17). With that assurance, we can trust that He will help us because He first loved us. He knows our weaknesses and just by abiding in Him, He can make a way for us to follow all His commands. For nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).
For further reflection, see Matthew 5:17-19, Matthew 5:27-32 and Matthew 5:33-37