6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 9-12): The Fullness of the Law
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Better yet, ask someone to read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
Matthew 5.17, 20-24, 27-28, 33-34, 37++
full reading: Matthew 5.17-37
For several Sundays now, we have listened to parts of a long section in St. Matthew's Gospel called "The Sermon on the Mount." It is called this because Jesus preaches to the people while sitting on the hillside of a mountain. People gather from all over Galilee to hear him. In the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear him say,
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.
Jesus says he is not here to abolish—not to get rid of—the law or the prophets. "The Law and the Prophets" refers to the scriptures that the people read and study in the synagogues. Jesus wants to be very clear that he is not telling people that the scriptures are wrong or not important. He knows that they are the Word of God.
The law is the Word given by God to Moses so many hundreds of years before Jesus was born. It is called Torah, which means "teaching." Torah is the Word of God; it shows people how to live with each other and with God. The most well-known teachings of the Torah are the Ten Commandments. Many of us have heard or studied these. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus revisits some of these Commandments and shows what the Word of God means.
We know prophets were people who were so tuned in to God that they spoke the Word of God to anyone who would listen. The prophets call people to live in God's love, to live the way God means us to live. Last week we heard the prophet Isaiah say,
Is this not the fast that I choose:
to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:6a, 7)
He wants people to know that "fasting" doesn't mean giving up chocolate for Lent! It means taking care of the those who are in need—fasting from serving ourselves first, and serving those who need help. He calls us to be like him—tuned in to God—to think about what God means when God asks us to live in a certain way.
Jesus is the Fulfilment of the Law and Prophets
You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’... But I say to you...
When we read the Ten Commandments, we come to "You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13). It is a commandment we do not have to think about every day, right? We can decide not to murder anyone and move on. We could start to think that really there are only nine Commandments for us, because we really are not likely to murder anyone, are we?
But like the prophets, Jesus asks us to think about what God means.
Probably we all remember a situation like this: While playing with brothers or sisters, someone says, "Stop touching me," and we say, "I'm not touching you," but our finger is only a few millimetres away from their skin. Our words are technically correct, but what our brother or sister really means is, "You are too close to me, you are irritating me, please stop." There is a gap between what our brother or sister says and what our brother or sister means. And we know that, right? We just choose not to listen to the meaning.
Jesus never ignores the gap between word and meaning. He looks through the Law to what it means.
He fulfils it. He fills it with its fullness.
Jesus embodies the Law.
That means the Word is Him. There is no gap between what he says and what he does.
He is the word made flesh.
And so, Jesus is the Word of God itself.
A Full Offering to God
But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment
Jesus always acts on the meaning of the words. And he calls us to do the same.
So, if we are angry with someone and do nothing about it, we are murdering something good—we are letting a relationship die. How can we then turn to God and offer a gift? The best gift we have to offer is ourselves-—are we really going to offer God our anger?
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
Sometimes it would be nice to divide ourselves up. This part of us we offer to God, and that part of us remains angry. But in Jesus there is no division. Loving God and loving neighbour go hand-in-hand. No division. A perfect offering to God the Father.
A fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.
P.S. This can be very difficult, leaving anger aside and making things right between ourselves and others. Do we have to do this on our own? Who do we have to help us?