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7th Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 19, 2017


Traducir al Español

By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

 

The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the New Moses: just as Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mt. Sinai, so Jesus issues the New Law in the Sermon on the Mount.  Let us take a moment to compare the Law of Moses and the Law of Jesus.

 

The Law of Moses was given to a sinful people to constrain them from evil; the Law of Jesus is given to a holy people to free them for doing good.  How can a law free us for doing good?  Take the case of the Good Samaritan.  A man was robbed and left for dead on the side of the road.  A priest and Levite passed by on the other side of the road.  They did not know if the man was dead – they could not afford to touch a corpse and be rendered impure on the way to the Temple in Jerusalem.  They were constrained by the Law from helping the man.  The Good Samaritan, on the other hand, was free to help the robbery victim because he operated from the Law of Compassion: to treat everyone as a neighbor.

 

Jesus says he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.  We still obey the Ten Commandments but Jesus call us beyond the law to live in the Love of Christ.  For example, the Fifth Commandment says, “Do not kill,” but Jesus tells us not even to insult our brothers and sisters (even in a moment of road rage).  The Sixth Commandment says, “Do not commit adultery,” but Jesus tell us not even to look at another with lust.  Jesus invites us to treat human beings as children of God, not as the objects of our own desire.  The old law said you may take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  Jesus instructs us not to take retribution at all but to pray for those who do us harm.  We are still a sinful people but Jesus has given us the sacraments to heal our sin and nourish us with his Body for our journey to holiness.  Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit that we may enjoy love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, and chastity.

 

Sometimes we fulfill the Law of Love in dramatic ways as when we forgive one who has done us grave harm.  Other times we are loving in ordinary ways as when we are kind to our loved ones.  Here I am preaching to myself and allowing you to listen in.  It is easy to dwell on the faults of family and friends – that is like shooting fish in a barrel.  On the other hand it is difficult to recognize the virtues of our loved ones and affirm them.  Why is it that when couples are courting that their beloved can do no wrong but then they get married it seems their spouse can do no right?  If we choose to harbor resentment then we allow resentment to imprison us.  If we let go of our grievances then we rise above them as Jesus in his Resurrection rose above the evil than nailed him to the cross.

 

Legend has it that two wolves live within us.  One is kind, patient, and generous.  The other is bitter, petty, and self-serving.  If you wonder which will grow stronger – it is the one you feed.

I love the character of Rebecca in the story of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.  The background of Ivanhoe is the hatred between French Normans and native Saxons in 12th Century England.  Yet, both Normans and Saxons hated Jews who flourished in business.  Rebecca was reviled not only for being a Jew but a women in this male-dominated society.  The more she was treated with contempt, the more she responded with dignity.  While she was maltreated for her ethnicity, she treated the maladies others with healing arts.  While the nobles in her society acted with treachery, she, at the bottom of her society, acted with nobility.  Rebecca was raised by a father who was greedy and opportunistic, but emerged as a woman who freely gave away what was hers and put the well being of others before herself. 

My dear brothers and sisters, do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good (Rom 12:21).  Let your light shine so brightly before others that seeing your good works, they may give glory to your Heavenly Father  (Mt 5:16).