The challenge to live out the values enshrined in the Commandments
6th Sunday of Year A (Matt 5:17-37)
February 12, 2017
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
LAWS can be hard, at times, but when we succeed in complying with their formal prescriptions, they also produce in us a feeling of fulfillment and security . . . Yet, there is more to moral life than just complying with certain legal demands. Governments may not require more than that, but God does. Our conscience does. A well-formed conscience never stops at the action in itself. It knows that every action – either forbidden or commanded—is like the tip of an iceberg: the iceberg of moral attitudes, of fundamental commitments, which are the primary targets of the moral law.
If we want to be in good terms with God and our conscience, we must reject the idea that He can be cheated, . . . that He also can be satisfied with appearances and lip service—The letter of the Law is important, but what matters most are the values it enshrines, and the internal dispositions with which we comply with its demands.
Jesus reminds us of just this. He enters the scene as the young prophet and reformer who has an important message to deliver and presents it with authority. With his moral teaching, he shakes off the dust of accommodation and the rust of compromise. With shocking frankness, he presents to his followers stern demands which leave no room for self-deception. “Unless your holiness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God” (Mt 5:20).
Not only does he remind his audience that the Commandments are still valid, but especially he challenges them to look deeper and to go beyond the wording of the Law, and reach out toward the deep core of every prescription.
Jesus poses radical demands. If we want to be his disciples, our priorities must be arranged (or re-arranged) accordingly. First things, first. If anything has to be sacrificed, let it be what is secondary, rather than what is essential (see Mt 5:23-24); what is transient, rather than what will last for ever (see Mt 5:29-30). Then we shall experience the consolations that only wise persons enjoy. We may be few, but never alone: Jesus and all the saints will be with us!