February 16, 2020
by Luis Rodriguez, S.J.
Creighton University's Jesuit Community
click here for photo and information about the writer

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 76

Sirach 15:15-20
Psalms 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Matthew 5:17-37 or
Matthew 5:20-22A, 27-28, 33-34A, 37

Praying Ordinary Time

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Jesus critiques a wisdom that is not the basis for holiness: unless your holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees... A head-wisdom that knows the long list of dos and don’ts, but ignores the disposition of the heart, yet it is from the heart that sin comes, not from external non-compliance. Jesus’ own stance does not aim to abolish the law and the prophets, but is rather a disposition to fulfill them.

And he applies this disposition to three particular instances by saying: You have heard... but I say to you... First instance: you shall not kill; whoever kills will be liable to judgment, which Jesus expands into whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. Anger in the heart is at the root of both murder and insult and it is from the heart that sin comes. Second instance: you shall not commit adultery, which Jesus expands into everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart, because lustful desires come from the heart and it is from the heart that sin comes. Third instance: do not take a false oath, which Jesus expands into do not swear at all. Swearing is prompted by mistrust –a mistrust that resides in the heart– and it is from the heart that sin comes.

The one specific injunction about being reconciled may have made more sense in the religious scene of that time, when one could perhaps walk away from the sacrifice and return later, but the letter of it is clearly impractical for our own religious/liturgical scene. If, as presider at the Eucharist, I am praying the offertory prayers and remember that someone legitimately has “something against me,” I am not going to leave the altar and perhaps even the church and go to be reconciled with that person before I return to the altar. If people in the congregation were to do likewise, I could be looking at empty pews. I need to go beyond the letter of the injunction and have in my heart the desire to be reconciled with that person as soon as feasible. Just as it is from the heart that sin comes, so it is from the heart that the move toward reconciliation comes.

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