Today’s readings challenge us to choose freely and wisely to observe the laws given by a loving and caring God. He revealed His laws to His Chosen People through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament, and through His own Son, Jesus, in the New Testament. For the Israelites, the Torah was not a set of laws, but the instruction or teaching intended to promote the holiness and wholeness of each believer. It was the revealed will of a caring God, for the people with whom had He made His covenant.
The first reading, taken from Sirach, contains the clearest statement in the Old Testament concerning the God-given freedom of the human will. It exonerates God from all responsibility for evil in the world. “If you choose, you can keep the commandments . . . before you are life and death, whichever you choose shall be given you.” In the second reading, Paul challenges his Corinthian believers to appreciate the wisdom of God’s saving plan for His people, a plan hidden for ages but now revealed by the Spirit.
In the selection from the Sermon on the Mount in today’s Gospel, while challenging his disciples to live a life of justice and righteousness which should exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus, as the new lawgiver, sets forth his own position with regard to the Law given through Moses, by providing new interpretation and meaning for the old laws. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus explains the real meaning of three Mosaic laws concerning murder, adultery and divorce.
1) We need to obey God’s Law, appreciating its basic principles: In obeying God’s law and Church law, let us remember the two basic principles on which these laws are based, namely, the principle of reverence and the principle of respect. In the first four of the Ten Commandments, we are asked to reverence God, reverence His holy Name, reverence His holy day, and reverence our father and mother. The next six commandments instruct us to respect life, one’s personal integrity and good name, the legal system, another’s property and another’s spouse. Our obedience to these laws must be prompted by love of God and gratitude to God for His blessings.
2) We need to forgive,forget, and move toward reconciliation as soon as possible. St. Paul advises us “Be angry (righteous anger) but do not sin” (Eph 4:26). When we keep anger in our spirit, we are inviting physical illnesses, like hypertension, and mental illnesses, like depression. Let us relax and keep silence when we are angry, wait before acting on our anger, giving it time to detoxify and cool off, pray for God’s strength for self-control, and give the Holy Spirit time to help us to see the event through Jesus’ eyes instead of through anger’s eyes.
3) We need to be true to God, to ourselves, and to others. Let us allow God’s word of truth to penetrate our minds and hearts and to form our consciences, making us men and women of integrity.