Sunday 6 A
February 2, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
First reading: Reminds us several times that we have the power to “choose”.
Second reading: Our God is a God of wisdom, mysterious, hidden, deep. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on us, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Gospel: We continue the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus addresses several important and yet complicated questions: his view of the Law and Prophets, murder, adultery, divorce and false oaths. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary treats this section with great care and great detail. There is no room here for knee jerk understanding or interpretation.
This section is Jesus’ interpretation of several scriptures. One of the keys to understanding Jesus’ words is 5:20 “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus now declares a former understanding of the Law inadequate as he places more stringent demands on his disciples. Jesus dares explicitly to modify or correct what God said through Moses. He makes the demand of the Law more penetrating.
He addresses murder, adultery, divorce and oaths. In the first three cases he extends the scripture by interpreting its ethical and societal implications for human living. But in the fourth (and in next Sunday’s passage) the fifth he allows part of the scriptures to pass away.
1) MURDER. Killing another person is the epitome of broken relationships. The Law given to Moses forbids killing. Jesus’ command is to defuse anger and work toward reconciliation before the rupture in the relationship reaches a murderous stage. He then gives three concrete examples. a) avoid insulting one another, b) liturgical sacrifices do not cover over broken relationships, c) he warns against letting conflicts escalate to the point of litigation in court..
2) ADULTERY. As anger is prohibited as the first step toward murder, so the lustful look is condemned as the prelude to adultery. God’s empire creates different male-female relationships. Jesus lived in a male dominated society, male concerns dominated. “Everyone who looks at a woman…” The “everyone” are males.
3) DIVORCE. Building on the previous example, Jesus adds that divorce is also a form of adultery. This is addressed to males and reflects the Jewish custom that only they could initiate divorce. (This is surely different in our present society and culture.) The commentary in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary states: “Since the matter of divorce is often painful, it is useful to remember that Jesus’ deep intent was not to cause pain but to set out a clear and high ideal of human relations, a vision of marriage as a covenant of personal love between spouses which reflects the covenant relationship of God and his people. Unfortunately this vision does not always fit the vagaries of the human heart.” Pope Francis makes this same point in his post Synod instruction. Warren Carter In his commentary on this passage in Matthew, poses this question: “How does the community of disciples hold together this restrictive divorce with the reality of God’s love, which enables forgiveness and new possibilities?” In chapter 8 of the post synod document which Pope Francis wrote (The Joy of Love)he gives advice to couples who have divorced and remarried. His teaching that the couple should meet with a priest and discern about their situation and then make their own decision about receiving the Eucharist, has created a storm among some and freed up many couples.
4) OATHS. Jesus insists that relations among Christians be so transparent as to end the need for taking oaths at all. “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” We must examine our personal responses and be aware that a different meaning to ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ is often experienced in our culture. The term “alternate truth” or “alternate facts” are a reality in the present context.