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2/12/2014 9:55:00 AM
We are Challenged by the Law

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Feb. 16, 2014
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ecclesiastes 15:15-20
1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Matthew 5:17-37 
or Matthew 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37

In today’s Gospel we hear several sayings of Jesus that Scripture scholars tell us were spoken at different times. Matthew gathered them into a single teaching. The passage is jarring. In less than one chapter of his Gospel, we have gone from the happiness and blessedness of the Beatitudes and the future that is ours to the path that we must follow to get there.

Jesus’ standards are high. He tells us how our relationships should look—not only our relationship with God, but our relationships with one another.

It pleases me to hear Jesus say that he is not going to abolish the law. I come from a police family and have more than just a healthy respect for the law. The law makes sense to me. It seems very clear to me. In a sense, this is the sort of respect that Matthew had--a Jewish theology of the Law. The law was God’s gift to his people.

We hear that same perspective in the First Reading and in the Psalm. The law is a blessing that saves God’s people. But like those who listened to Matthew, we need to see the Law from the perspective of Jesus. Consider this seemingly simple sentence: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against, you leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

This is where I am challenged. I can easily apologize and I easily forgive. Unfortunately, after I have done both, I most easily walk away if the other person does not want reconciliation. Today, I am reminded that it is not enough to apologize and forgive. Neither can I walk away.

Matthew tells us that Jesus fulfills the law and surpasses it because he is the way to God. This is the law that has the power to make holy, to transform and to renew. The Sermon on the Mount is the best example of how law and Gospel relate. This is not simply a new list of rules; it is a description of the relationship that we should have with God and with one another.

Jesus fulfills the law and teaches God’s will in light of it. More important, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection teach us best the meaning of law that renews.

We give thanks and praise for Jesus who teaches us to live as he lived, to do what he would do and to love his law.

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