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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Living the Law

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘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 brother will be liable to judgment.
‘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.
‘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. Let your “Yes” mean “Yes,” and your “No” mean “No.” Anything more is from the evil one’” (Matthew 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37).
When we start a new job or begin attending a new school, we usually receive a handbook of policies and procedures as well as various instructions for how to successfully navigate the new environment. There is something inherently relational about laws intended to foster community and harmony or protect us from hurting ourselves and others. This connection between relationships and the law is at the heart of this gospel reading.
The law of God, as given to Moses, was understood by the people as instructions for living: principles for living a moral life, guidance on how to enter into relationship with God, and how to best live in relationship with one another. Jesus is not asking his followers to dismiss the teachings of Moses but he is looking beyond the strict literal interpretation of the law, going deeper to pursue the underlying meaning.
Jesus invites us to consider not just murder, adultery, and false oaths but to examine the attitudes and motives that lie beneath the surface of such acts. Jesus is more concerned with how we act in relationship to one another. Am I completely honest? Are my words consistent with my actions? Do I seek revenge, or do I avoid retaliation? Do I honor the dignity of all people?
God has given us the law not to make life difficult, not to be prohibitive, but in order that we might live life to the fullest extent. Through his expression of the law, Jesus shows us how to love others in the same way God loves us–with compassion, dignity, and respect for all.
– In what areas of your life do you need to be more attentive to the “spirit of the law” and not merely the “letter of the law”?
Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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