Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

 

 

Mt. 5. 17-32

 

“You have learnt … but I say to you”

 

Jesus insists that he has come not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to complete them, to bring them to fulfilment. He is not dismissing the teachings of the past but deepening them. Whereas the received teachings tended to focus on wrong actions, Jesus gets behind the actions to focus on the inner spirit from which action comes. His moral teaching does not stop at the condemnation of wrong behaviour but goes beyond to guide us to root out the very cause of it.

 

So, how do we handle violence? “You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill. … But I say to you anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it …” It is not enough, says Jesus, simply to say you must not kill. You must address the problem at its root cause – not just the violence itself but the anger within the heart from which the violent act is born. So, if left untended, anger stirs and develops, maybe through name calling and bitter speech, until it gradually takes over. Beware, Jesus warns us; be ready to quench your anger and to seek reconciliation with your opponent before things get beyond control. And make that work part of your offering at the altar.

 

“You have learnt how it was said: you must not commit adultery … but I say if a man looks at a woman lustfully he has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. Again the message is the same – do not focus simply on the external manifestation of wrong-doing but pay attention to the inner source of the sin. There is nothing wrong with sexual attraction or desire. What is wrong is lust, the desire to use another person for one’s own gratification. That’s where the fault line lies and that is where firm action is needed to root it out at source, though maybe not in as dramatic a manner as Jesus’ use of hyperbole suggests!