Homily for the sixth Sunday in the year

Year A  -  Mt. 5:17-37


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Jesus said:  «Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.  For truly, I say to you, heaven and earth must disappear sooner than one jot, one flourish disappear from the law; it must all be accomplished.  Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

"«You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.'  But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.  So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison;  truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

"«You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.'  But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.  "It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'  But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

"«Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.'  But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  Let what you say be simply `Yes' or `No'; anything more than this comes from evil.»"



Homily:


"Jesus said:  «Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.»"

Jesus continues teaching:  he instructs his disciples about how to live the new Law, the law of love which he came to bring to the whole world!  In fact, nothing substantial changes:  there is no fundamental difference between the former Law and the new Law.  What does change is the manner of practicing the Law:  Jesus comes to accomplish the former Law, he comes to give it its perfection, its fullness!

Jesus perfectly fulfills the former Law, and it is thus that he, God become a Man, saves the world!  He comes into the world in order to save it, but he does so by perfectly accomplishing the Law of God.  He therefore comes in order to accomplish in fullness the sacrifice which was required by the former Law; and, at the moment when he is about to fully sacrifice himself for his People, he says:  "It is accomplished." (John 19:30)

The former Law had its highest expression in ritual sacrifice, and Jesus came to give this former Law its fullness by offering himself in sacrifice, a sacrifice of love, a sacrifice that demonstrated to all men this Law of love, which then became the new Law!  "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them."

"« For truly, I say to you, heaven and earth must disappear sooner than one jot, one flourish disappear from the law; it must all be accomplished.»"

If there is a moment when heaven and earth will truly pass away and, in a sense, disappear, it will be at the time of the second coming of Christ to the earth.  For it is then that the prophecy of Saint John will be fulfilled:  "I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away." (Rev. 21:1)

These words of the Lord:  "For truly, I say to you, heaven and earth must disappear sooner than one jot, one flourish disappear from the law; it must all be accomplished," can therefore mean that, if the Law of God were no longer observed, if an iota, a dot of the Law disappeared, then the moment would have come when Christ the Lord would return to earth to give the Law all its fullness by judging the nations, as well as every man and woman in particular.

Do we not find in this a very great motive to respect and accomplish the Law of God in all of our life?  Aren't we all responsible for what happens in the world?  In every age - yesterday, today, tomorrow - each one of us is responsible before God and before men:  we must do all that is in our power to make sure that we practice the Law of God, in order that heaven and earth do not pass away before our very eyes, and so that Christ does not take us by surprise by returning when we are not expecting him!

"«Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.»"

Let us look at what the Lord wishes us to do.  What he asks of us is that we observe his commandments, even the smallest of them.  But he also asks that we teach these same commandments to those around us and to those who are in our care.  We cannot therefore sit in our little corner and believe that we are being perfect in our practice of the Law of God:  it is necessary for us to go beyond ourselves and teach others how to practice the Law to perfection!

We have received the sacrament of Baptism; we have probably received that of Confirmation as well.  But these two sacraments don't exist for their own sake:  they are ordered to the reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist!  Even if someone may not be able to actually receive the Eucharist, the sacraments of baptism and confirmation make it possible for him to enter into spiritual communion with Jesus in the Sacrament of his Body and of his Blood.  Therefore, if we were baptized in the Blood of Christ (cf. Rm. 6:3), it is so that we may, through the Eucharist, become other Christs similar to the one Christ, the Son of God.

Our baptism, and our confirmation in Christ, is what allows us to practice in perfection the Law of God, the Law of love which Jesus manifested on the Cross of Calvary, and which he comes to reveal to us at every eucharistic celebration.  Our baptism is what makes us sons of God in Christ through the practice of the new Law!  Therefore, let us be faithful to our baptism and to our confirmation in Christ, let us be true disciples of Christ through the Eucharist!  May Mary, the Mother of us all, help us through her prayer, which is powerful in its influence over the Heart of God!