Gospel Reflection for the 6th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A – February 12th 2017
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.
‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.
‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.
‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’
Virtue is to go deep: that is the message of Jesus today. It comes not from scribes, Pharisees and other teachers but from Jesus.
This is something about sincerity; we hope that we practise what we preach or walk it as we talk it. Every religion runs the risk of its demands and its visions not being lived in practice. That is also part of being human.
The way we deal with that is by focusing not on a book of rules, but on the Word of Life. Nothing is as great as spiritual integrity: not even the eye or the hand. We find the true way of religion in following the words, the way and the heart of Jesus.
Firstly it is the way of mercy and compassion. The place where compassion ‘lives’ is in the deepest part of ourselves. The life and love of Jesus for his people will deepen the compassion in our hearts. This essence of religion is deepened with prayer and with listening to others.
Then virtue goes deeper, then rules and way of living the Christian life make sense.
This is the background to the challenge to leave worship if we are at odds with a brother or sister. Maybe not to be taken literally, but a challenge to unite the love of God and the love of others in my heart.
Maybe this week we might notice the calls in our ordinary relationships to think compassionately and show compassion. This is the centre and ground of our Christian faith; it is the centre of the life of Christ.
Donal Neary SJ
Fr Donal Neary SJ is editor of the Sacred Heart Messenger
Reflections for Year A, first published in other years in Logos Missalette, have now been published in book form:
Gospel Reflections for Sundays of Year A: Matthew, Messenger Publications 2016, €9.99
Order online at www.messenger.ie, or in Veritas and other booksellers.