February 16, 2020: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading: Matthew 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37 (shorter version)
Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, you shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.
“You have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”
My husband and I are catechists for one of our parish’s fourth grade faith formation classes. The week we were to cover the commandments addressed in the shortened version of today’s Gospel, We experienced a bit of anxiety. Exploring these issues with adults is one thing, but with kids….? Trusting in our parish’s choice of the curriculum established by the St. Mary’s Press series Discover! Finding Faith in Life (and trusting, of course, in Providence!), we persevered and hopefully adapted these teachings appropriately to a fourth-grader’s understanding of experiences and application in their lives. I believe that is what Jesus, the foremost catechist, was doing as he addressed his disciples.
The Law provided the people of Israel with guidelines of living in right relationship with Yahweh and with one another. The Scribes and Pharisees, the authoritative teachers and interpreters of the Law, emphasized strict adherence to the Commandments. Jesus, in instructing of his disciples and us, acknowledges the need for and the external manifestations of these Commandments. And, he challenges all of his followers (then, now and future) to be aware of their interior dispositions in their interactions with others. Our actions might not rise to the actual acts of killing, adultery or making false oaths. Our hearts, however, may betray the goodness to which God calls us.
Spend some time reflecting this week on your experiences of understanding the Commandments as they pertain to your state in life. Take one or more, and focus on it (on them) and see to what deeper relationship with God and others you are being called. Change the focus away from the perspective of “did I sin in this area?” to “how did I choose to give glory to God in this area?”. Then, “go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your life”.