Relationship Over Law ~ Br. Mark Dickson-Patrick, Novice


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Reading 1 – Sirach 15:15-20

If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.  Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.  The eyes of God are on those who fear him; he understands man’s every deed.  No one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34

 (1b) Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

  1. Blessed are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.  Blessed are they who observe his decrees, who seek him with all their heart.
    R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
    You have commanded that your precepts be diligently kept.  Oh, that I might be firm in the ways of keeping your statutes!
    R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
    Be good to your servant, that I may live and keep your words.  Open my eyes, that I may consider the wonders of your law.
    R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
    Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes, that I may exactly observe them.  Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart.
    R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 2:6-10

 Brothers and sisters:  We speak a wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.  Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,  and which none of the rulers of this age knew;  for, if they had known it,  they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written:  What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.  For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

Gospel – Matthew 5:17-37

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;  and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.  Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.  Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.  “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.  But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.  “It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.  But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife –  unless the marriage is unlawful – causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.  But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.  Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’  Anything more is from the evil one.”

“It is better to be feared than to be loved.” These words by Niccolo Macchiavelli describe clearly his theory of the duties of a leader. He believed that a leader was to impart rules on his or her subjects, and to impart fear into them that they might follow the rules that he or she had put in place. This, Macchiavelli believed, was the pinnacle of true leadership.

This was seen as true, too, in the Old Testament understanding of God. Throughout the Old Testament, we see the Jews following the law which had been put in place for the Jewish people, in order that they might live according to the commands of God. Faithful Jews followed the Law, took their sacrifices to the Temple, honored the priests and the Sabbath, according to the letter of the Law of God.

In our Gospel for this 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear Jesus, considered by many in the ruling priestly class to be a radical in His understanding (or seeming misunderstanding) of the Law of God, teaching His disciples and us today a very important lesson. We hear Jesus taking very important prescriptions of the Law, and does He abolish them? No! He takes them even further, taking the word or letter of the Law to its heart. Jesus makes it clear that following God and living in accord with His commands is not about following the letter of the Law, but about living in relationship with one another. We see this very clearly in the Gospel. Jesus says “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’…” This was the prescription of the Law. Instead of dropping this prescription, He instead says “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Why is that so? It is because in the very act of looking with lust that the person has tainted the way in which he RELATES with her, not only in his mind, but in his actions. Jesus is talking about relationship.

There are many today who believe still that if they follow the letter of the Law, of a Law that was given to them either from a church authority or from within themselves, they will find true salvation. Nonsense! Legalism breeds scrupulosity, and scrupulosity breeds sin. We look at the spirit of the law which leads us to our ever-loving, all-powerful God, who loves us and sees us as His own.

In looking at the spirit of the law, Jesus reminds us that God desires a relationship, and that the living out of the Gospel message is a living out of a radical relationship with God and with our fellow men and women. He desires us to treat one another with respect, and not do anything sinful which might ruin the way in which we relate with one another.

God does not desire  us to be afraid of Him, but rather that we come to Him Who can do all, Who knows every fiber of our being. He asks that we seek and serve Him in others in everything that we do. God desires to be loved, not feared.

Let us stay true to the Gospel message, in living out our relationship with God and one another. Let us keep ourselves and our relationships pure, that we might work together for the bringing about of the Kingdom of God. Let us love one another as God loves us, for we are His beloved children.

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