Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 5:17-37
Listening to today’s Gospel we realize that being a strict follower of the rules isn’t good enough. Jesus expects us to be better than just followers of rules. In Jesus’ mind righteousness is not a question of merely observing the commandments, it is not a question of what I must do to observe the law. It is a question of how much more I can do, how much more I want to do. In following Jesus, the requirements of the law are way behind. It is what’s in our hearts and souls that matters.
The goodness of the Pharisees was superficial; they only kept up appearances. So just because we appear to be good on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean that we are good on the inside. We may never commit adultery, but our hearts can be filled with lust. We may never be convicted of theft, but we can rob another person of their value in the eyes of others. We may not steal, but we can cheat and thereby take from others what is rightfully theirs.
Jesus wants us to have a clean record on the outside and a clean heart on the inside. For Jesus, to be good means that we must not kill people but we must also in our hearts, not want to do away with them. To be good, we not only should avoid lusting after others and not commit adultery, we should likewise not use other people simply for our own pleasure and personal gain. It is genuine love that matters, not just words or appearances.
Laws are good things; laws preserve and protect values, values we want to have not only for ourselves but for our society. No law ever made us good. Laws only direct us away from evil. To observe law means to follow the letter of the law; to live it means to go beyond the letter, to go beyond the mind and allow it to sink in the heart. For this reason, the Lord did not allow himself to be limited by traditions, customs, or even, by the times. He went right to the heart of the matter and cut right through our stony hearts.
True Christians do not ask whether something is legal or illegal and then stop there. They love God, they love Jesus, and they love their brothers and sisters. Their only concern is how they can serve and love them more and more. No matter how much they do, they know they can still love more and do more and be more. Just doing the minimum is not enough.
Obedience to the minimum requirements of laws is not enough. What Jesus taught and what He showed us is that love knows no boundaries. Let’s practice it daily…