So we continue to read from the Sermon on the Mount - which began with the Beatitudes aa couple of weeks ago. And we will finish up next week - right in time for Lent. . .
I hope I don't shock you with the fact that Lent is right around the corner. And it's probably good that we hear almost all the Sermon of the Mount before Lent begins -- as this is the most intense and comprehensive teaching on following Christ that St. Matthew gives us in all of his Gospel. So good food for thought to carry into Lent.
St. Matthew is writing his Gospel for Jewish Christians - he quotes more from the Jewish Scriptures than the other 3 evangelists.
In his Gospel, Matthew wants to demonstrate to his Jewish audience that Jesus is the new Moses -- giving a new Law.
That's why he has Jesus giving this teaching from a mountain, rather than a plain, as does St. Luke in his Gospel.
Much as Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the Law, the 10 Commandments, from God, Jesus gives the new Law from a mountain-side.
And so Jesus presented not 10 -- but 8 beatitudes: eight attitudes which those who follow the new law of love---must put into practice in their lives.
Those who practice these attitudes will be like salt and light -- as we heard last week -- they preserve and enlighten themselves and so those around them.
Today, as Jesus continues his teaching, he addresses the question which would have been on the minds and hearts of the original Jewish readers of this Gospel: HOW DOES THE OLD LAW OF MOSES RELATED TO THIS NEW LAW OF LOVE WHICH JESUS GIVES?
Jesus answers by stating that he has not come to abolish the Law of Moses -- but to fulfill it. Then he gives six specific examples. We hear the first four today -- and surprise, surprise--- will hear the other two next Sunday.
So if we are to become intentional disciples of Jesus and provide salt and light to our world --- we need to reflect on each of the examples and change our behavior if needed -- which is what Lent is all about. . .
The 5th commandment of the Law of Moses forbids murder. But Jesus wants to lessen the chances of that even being a possibility -- by avoiding anger.
Now Jesus is not talking about our human emotion of anger, which we all share.
He is not referring to the healthy ways in which we need to express that human emotion.
No, Jesus is talking about deep seated resentments and hatreds and prejudices which can consume us and damage and destroy human relationships.
That's why we give each other the sign of peace before receiving Christ in the Eucharist - it's a way of saying that we are willing to work on reconciliation with those against whom we may be holding grievances.
The 6th commandment of the Law of Moses forbids adultery. So does Jesus.
However, he also wants to make sure things don't get to that point by warning against the danger of making a person into an object of desire.
Which is why pornography is so dangerous -- it encourages the type of lust which Jesus warns against.
The Law of Moses DID allow for divorce. However, because of the patriarchal society of the time -- only husbands could file for a divorce - and not even have to give a reason.
The wife had absolutely no rights. Once her husband got rid of her - she could be forced into another marriage or even into prostitution in order to survive.
Jesus calls married disciples to a higher standard. And to this day, the Church continues to teach that only death can end a valid bond of marriage.
We do not regard divorce as a way ending a marriage which was validly entered into with full consent. And so the Church urges married couples to do everything possible to repair any damage to a marriage.
The Law of Moses regulated the social system of Jesus' day. A person of lower social status swore an oath to a patron - who cared for them and watched over them and protected them.
While we don't have such a system today -- our peers or our business interests might put us at odds with Gospel values. So Jesus tells us as his disciples - we must always tell the truth and fulfill our oaths to God alone.
In his Sermon on the Mount: Jesus clearly raises the bar of expectations for us, his disciples. Jesus' new law deepens the wisdom which Sirach describes in the first reading.
God has clearly shown forth his love for us in allowing his Son to be sacrificed on the cross. This love is extended to everyone.
But as Sirach points out -- God never forces love upon us -- God always gives us a choice.
We can ignore that love and do whatever we want.
OR, we can choose to imitate that love by living Christ's new commandment to love one another as he has loved us.
Living as faithful and intentional disciples of Jesus involves making life-changing choices to accept God's mysterious wisdom made present in the cross.
Living as faithful and intentional disciples-- doesn't just involve making one big choice for the direction of our lives -- it also involves embracing that wisdom in the choices we make every day.
And in making these daily choices, we live out the Gospel message -- and provide hope in our darkened world – which definitely needs the light of Christ to brighten it.
In living out the Gospel message: day in and day out: WE BECOME SALT AND LIGHT.
Moments in time...