Gospel Reflections

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:17-37

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Josephine Threlfall

Published: February 12, 2017

On first reading today’s Gospel which is about observing the law we tend to think that it carries a very negative message, telling us what not to do and warning people about breaking the law. If we look more closely we see that throughout the Old Testament particularly in the time of the prophets, observance of the law was essential if people were to find their way to God. We know the law has its origins in the Pentateuch or Torah of the Old Testament and the Commandments given to Moses. People had great love and respect for the law as the Psalmist says, "Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day."  Psalm 119

The scribes however, added many more things to the law than God intended. That is why Jesus condemned these additions which placed burdens on people. They thought that he was changing the laws handed down by the prophets; but they were reassured by Jesus words, “I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.”

On further reflection we see that God’s law which Jesus came to fulfill is one of truth, justice, love, goodness and mercy. Jesus taught us how to love by laying down his life for us and teaching us how to follow in his footsteps. We are called to hear the Word of God to listen and to allow the Spirit of God, to increase our Faith, and trust. However, there is a warning in Jesus words, about apathy and complacency and only doing the minimum to keep the letter of the law. Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The people listening to Jesus would probably be surprised to hear the next part of Jesus conversation with them, concerning some of the serious sins listed in the commandments. Killing their enemy was far from their form of behaviour, after all they were devout followers who prayed daily and went to the synagogue and kept the law.  But merely observing the basic essential behaviour was not sufficient; more was needed. Anyone who showed anger or was abusive to another person was not fulfilling the law of God’s love. A truly righteous person is one who is reconciled with the neighbour. This is only possible if we are open to receive the Spirit of God who will guide us in all truth.

Another of the laws and commandments of God speaks of committing adultery which clearly is sinful and against the law. However, Jesus says that looking at someone lustfully is also punishable. For Jesus there are no half measures his teaching is clear about avoidance of evil, which is only possible if we have hearts of faithfulness and love. God gives us grace to love and forgive if we constantly turn to him and pray for strength and courage to overcome evil temptations.

We also have a warning here about the use of bad language. So much damage is done by destructive use of language through character assassination and dishonesty: Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’ anything more than this leads to sin.” Let us use our tongue to build up good relationships and friendships, to praise and not to condemn. The law of love is the basic essential in our lives. 

In the world today we are still aware of the negative effects that sin has in all parts of society. So it is encouraging to see the good results that have come from programmes on Anger Management in Prisons, Peace and Reconciliation Meetings, Truth and Justice Commissions. There is so much healing needed in our troubled world. Let us pause today and think how we could contribute to love, peace and harmony in our own society.

How do I react when I feel unfairly treated by others? How do I deal with temptations of discrimination in my life? How do I deal with a relationship that has been hurtful? Let us pray the Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.



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