To be better gospel people
12 February 2023 6th Sunday Year A
Listen to Reflection
In today’s gospel it seems Jesus is asking too much of us! Following the commandments is not enough. We must also avoid anger, abusive language, lustful thoughts, and not take oaths of any kind! Even calling someone a ‘fool’ or ‘renegade’ is an offence. But is Jesus actually asking us to follow an impossible set of commandments … or is he doing something else?
First, we need to note Jesus’ statement in Matthew’s Gospel: “I have not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to complete them”. The community of disciples Jesus is addressing are all Jews who show great respect for the Law. The pharisees, in particular, are suspicious of Jesus because he doesn’t speak much about major Jewish rules such as circumcision, food laws or Sabbath requirements. At times, they think, Jesus even acts against them!
However, Jesus is not interested in debating them about any particular law. Instead, he challenges their inadequate, superficial – at times hypocritical – thinking that assumes God’s favour is won by following the letter of the Law.
In fact, Jesus says the Law does not go far enough unless it highlights love of God and neighbour. So, Jesus reinterprets the Law according to the spirit of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the peacemakers”.
But, who among us can claim to be these perfect “Beatitude people”? We are still left with this problem of what seems to be the “impossibility of the gospel” captured in Jesus’ statement: “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Now, Jesus is not naïve. He is perfectly aware that none of us – scribes, pharisees or his own disciples – is able to claim this degree of spiritual conversion to the law of love. So, do we just wash our hands, shrug our shoulders and carry on as before?
Or do we take the second option of turning to the God of love and mercy who challenges us to change our ways, forgives our failures, and assists us to become more effective “gospel people”? To be a gospel person is to be on a journey. This call to deepening conversion is not only needed in the current world of geo-politics; it is also needed in our own Christian communities.
Let us together look to God’s revelation in Jesus and the Scriptures so wonderfully summarised in today’s reading from St Paul: “The things no eye has seen, no ear has heard, things beyond the human mind, all that God has prepared for those who love him”. The gospel is not impossible because it is the wisdom and work of God in process. As we continue on our life’s journey, living and growing as gospel people, let us play our small but important role in bringing the gospel to birth in our families, communities and world.
Gerard Hall SM
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