HOMILY FOR THE 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: Sir. 15:15-20/1Cor. 2:6-10
Psalm: 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
Gospel: Mt. 5:17-37
When was the last time the world you knew suddenly pulled out from under your feet? That feeling that everything you were told was wrong? The notion that everything you’re told growing up that made the world a better place and you a better person was a lie? What is your first instinct? To doubt yourself; to doubt your family; doubt society: to blame those who were in charge for telling you the wrong things in the first place? Now this doubt can be as small as a teenager thinking that they are more popular than they really are, or as large as an adult seeing everything they had built be destroyed in a single instant. Yet no matter how large your house, that moment always brings someone to a realization that the life they knew was gone and the life they are to leave and never be the same. I myself fall victim to this every so often and, while I would like to remain in my world self-delusion, the realities of this world pull me back so that I can function as a member of this society.
I would like to think that I am some great preacher or theologian just waiting to be discovered; or going to some recording studio and make an album of my favorite songs. But then I look around and I see those who are more talented than I and they are given the chance to make the dream come true. When that moment comes, I do tend to have a healing of abandonment to which I have to re-examine my life so I may move forward with my life.
Now imagine that same feeling coming over an entire nation. All their hopes, all their dreams, all their wishes for them to be free and live their lives in a way that they were told it should be has been threatened to the point of nonexistence. For the past few weeks, the gospel has been proclaimed from the Sermon on the Mount. It started a couple weeks ago and what I refer to as Jesus’ “inaugural address.” Last week, the gospel claimed that we are salt of the earth the light of the world. While those may sound nice, the Jewish people were seeing the world not as salt and light but as spoilage and darkness.
The Jews were a group that all their lives were told they were a chosen people. They were the ones designated by God to bring about his kingdom. And yet, they had been constantly attacked, imprisoned, dispersed, re-settled, and occupied to the point that they are now unsure what truly being salt and light really means. Some had tried over the centuries to explain to the Jewish people what salt and light means. Some tried being overly pious; others have tried being overly populous. Still others have tried being overly patriotic. While these methods may have worked in the short-term, by themselves they never held much staying power and, as a result, were dismissed with just as much passion as they had been accepted. It is a pattern that has occurred over the centuries and is still with us today. The question now becomes how the people will respond to changes in the hopes of the better people, better neighbors, better citizens, brothers and sisters in the eyes of God?
Article 2, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states, “(the president) shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” When we listen to a state of the union address, we hear the items that the president wants to have passed the upcoming legislative session. Mainly, it is his way to see that his agenda gets carried out for the betterment of the nation. This agenda is usually based upon a history of prior actions within the country-good or bad-that the president wishes to either enhance or replace. If we can continue the parallel with the president and his speeches with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, we can view the Gospel proclaimed today as Christ’s state of the union (or at least his message to the Congress being his first address).
Jesus starts by laying the foundation of his ministry, his message to the nation. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part of the letter pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” For those hearing this for the first time, it must’ve been rather confusing. Most prophets would yell and scream and demand that their congregations do a complete 180 of what they had been taught in the temple in the synagogues. Or at the very least, find a reason for their actions to be against the Law.
Jesus is telling them that what they have known and what they have learned was correct, and he is not there to tell them otherwise. In fact, what he is doing is bringing the law and the prophets to its full and natural conclusion. It was probably the first time many of the crowds felt reassured that how they were living were not a punishment by God.
So, what examples does Jesus give that he is to bring the law and the prophets to their fulfillment? He brings out a few of the general things that have been going on and tells him they could be done better. If you are not to kill, then start by not being angry. If you do want to be caught in an overly romantic relationship-especially if you’re not married to the person-then it would be better for you to not look at someone in a manner that is more than just friendship. If someone requires you to make some sort of an oath, do not take it for fear of punishment to make sure that what you say is truthful and the oath would not be necessary. The more we understand the need to be in unison with our brothers and sisters in Christ, the more we are able to truly love one another as God intended us to do.
What we say to one another is mostly based on our actions we display to one another. The more genuine our actions are the more genuine and honest our words will be. Likewise, if our actions are disingenuous or are for some other purposes, then what we say will have a false meaning. Jesus was reminding the Jews that the law and the prophets were there to help us be better people, not necessarily find us to a specific way of living. The law did give them a way of living to distinguish themselves from the rest of the tribes, this is true. But, there was very little room for growth in just the strict observance of the law. When we read about the origins of our faith, we look at it as something that goes above and beyond the norm. Yet without that faith, our belief in God would be just as bland and stagnant as it was before Jesus came on the earth. Let our faith be the salt of the earth the light for the world so we can be the example Christ wants us to be for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK
Questions for Reflection:
- When was the last time you had the world pulled out from under your feet? How long did it
take to get back up?
- The Gospel spoke to remove your eye or hand if it is causing you to sin. What sort of things
that cause you to sin do you need to remove from your life?
- If someone called you Salt of the Earth or the Light of the World, what do you think they
saw in you to say that?