6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A – 16th February 2020 — Gospel: Matthew 5,17-37
Honouring the other
In this section on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reviewed some of the moral laws for kingdom living. His authority is greater than the authority of Moses. His demands are more radical; his visions are sharper; his expectations are greater. His point of reference was not the letter of the precept, but the good of the person. Many people had failed to obey the moral teachings of the Old Testament. Jesus then came to show us how to respect and obey the old law and apply them more fully in New Testament times. In this way, He exhorts his disciples to exceed that of scribes and Pharisees in righteousness in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said that Old Testament moral laws are to be observed in New Testament times for the sake of the kingdom. Jesus said they are eternal laws, not just for the privileged Jewish alone, but for all people and for all time. Some Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes pretended outwardly to observe God’s laws, but inwardly they were hypocrites and broke them. Instead, Jesus, being an observant Jew, said that he came to fulfill, amplify, deepen, and to transcend them. This means that he brings the Torah, the covenant, and the prophets to their divinely intended goal, because they point to him.
He highlights three important moral laws that could shape an individual for the kingdom. Firstly, broken relationships are to be mended in the kingdom. One way of working at broken relationships is to kill the other. Other people respond to broken relationships by getting angry and use abusive words. Jesus gives the antidote to heal the heart from the poison of hatred by saying, treat the other as brother (‘brother’ is repeated thrice 22-24). The only way to mend the broken relationships is to go and talk to the other person, to confess and acknowledge your attitude and feelings, to seek forgiveness and become reconciled, if he has something against you. Jesus said you can’t worship God as long as you have an unresolved difficulty with your brother. Secondly, there is no place for lust in God’s kingdom. Jesus shows here the close relationship of external actions (eyes and hands) and internal dispositions. He says allowing evil thoughts and desires in your mind are contrary to God’s law. Like anger, the emotions of lust unite in egoism and enjoin power over other people. Thirdly, honesty in relationships is necessary for kingdom living. One should have integrity with one’s speech, words, and actions. Many wrongdoers use strong words or swear words, or oaths to make them believe. But that doesn’t prove they are honest. In actuality, we like to prove to ourselves and others that in anger we are right, in lust we are attractive, and in oaths we are honest. In all these, we manifest a deep uncertainty about ourselves and seek a “justification” of our self. Instead Jesus places a protective shield around the other wishing to honour him/her without your anger, egoistic lust or oaths. This serves as a best means to enter the kingdom and to surpass the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees.