Incredibly Apposite & Instructive Scripture Today at Mass

Detail from "The Sermon on the Mount" (1481-1482) by Cosimo Rosselli


I'm really struck by the readings today:

The first reading is Ecclesiasticus 15:16-21
If you wish, you can keep the commandments,
  to behave faithfully is within your power.
He has set fire and water before you;
  put out your hand to whichever you prefer.
Man has life and death before him;
  whichever a man likes better will be given him.
For vast is the wisdom of the Lord;
  he is almighty and all-seeing.
His eyes are on those who fear him,
  he notes every action of man.
He never commanded anyone to be godless,
  he has given no one permission to sin.

How will this be read in Malta one wonders?

The Second reading is 1 Cor 2: 6-10

...The hidden wisdom of God which we teach in our mysteries is the wisdom that God predestined to be for our glory before the ages began. It is a wisdom that none of the masters of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory...

This speaks to me of the truth of the Church which is the revelation about God given through Christ and His Apostles. This is not something that changes to fit in with "the masters of this age", it is a wisdom that goes beyond time to the truth of our being. We cannot change what Christ has taught us, we cannot improve on it, instead we must have the courage to change and the wisdom to work to understand it better and more fully.

The Gospel is from the Sermon on the Mount, the Revelation in Scripture of Christ as the Law. Jesus is seated on the mountain, as Moses when he gave the people the Law.

Matthew 5:17-37
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 but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not 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: 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.’

When you read Scripture and the very face of it seems to totally contradict themes consistantly taught by the Pope...What does that mean??

Fr Geoff O'Grady has written an excellent exegesis of today's Gospel on the Shrewbury Diocese website here. This is what he says with someone emphasis, etc from me:

This part of the Sermon on the Mount deals with the place of Law in Jewish and Christian life and shows how Jesus can draw out of the Law all the potential it has within it.

Jesus has come not to abolish the law or the prophets but to complete them. He is not a law-breaker as some Pharisees would accuse him. He wants to draw out of the Law of Moses its full potential. The one who observes the Law and appreciates the value which it enshrines will be worthy member of the kingdom. If the disciples don’t observe the law more wholeheartedly than the externalism of Pharisees they won’t enter the kingdom of heaven. [I thought everyone knew this, but I've seen the insult "Pharisee" thrown around so much recently I've been shocked!]

Today’s gospel reading deals with four important areas of morality where Jesus’ interpretation offers new depths and insightful applications. He deals with each issue by quoting the law of Moses and then adding an authoritative parenthesis – “But now I say to you,” – which deepens and broadens the concerns of the law.

The first issue he treats is murder and killing. Not only is murder forbidden but also attitudes and passions like anger, calling names etc which could lead to murder. The violations of this law and the appropriate courts and punishments to deal with them are listed in ascending order of seriousness ending with hell as a punishment. Worship of God should be undertaken only after one has been reconciled with anyone who has something against them and also anyone they have something against. If we are not at rights with others and they with us, it is not possible to be at rights with God.

The commandment forbidding adultery is broadened to include actions and attitudes which cause one to treat women as sex objects. Jesus does not literally mean us to surgically remove our right hand or eye but emphasises the urgent need to carefully avoid anything that causes one to sin.

While marriage was held in very high esteem by the Jews, divorce was permitted (Deut 24,1). In the time of Jesus there were two rabbinic schools of thought on divorce: the Shammai school was quite restrictive in permitting divorce, while the Hillel school was the opposite. Jesus (in Mk 10,11-12) rules out divorce, but here, he reluctantly admits an exception, “unchastity,” which some say means a marriage within the forbidden degrees of kindred.

Deut 6,13, and 10,20 command swearing oaths by the name of God, but probably from long experience of the abuse of this privilege, it became more restricted in use. Here Jesus says that for the upright person there is no need for oaths to buttress the truth of anything they say. Their own uprightness and honesty should speak for itself. Their word is their bond.

Christians always should, but sometimes don’t, show respect for the Lord’s name. Sadly, today,it is often used as an expletive to emphasize a fact. The Jews never pronounced God’s name, out of reverence for it. We Christians have a lot to learn from them on this matter. Oaths that are false (perjury) are the ultimate insult to God who is truth itself.

Jesus exemplifies a merciful attitude which affirms our potential for goodness. He recognises the need for rules to give direction and discipline to our passions and energies so that we may, by the power of God’s love and grace, be masters of own destiny, rather than slaves of our own passions, desires or laws.



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