• Sirach 15:15-20 • 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 • Matthew 5:17-37 • 6 Ordinary A’14 •
Scripture Readings: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
PRINT PDF: Weekly Homily 02.16.2014
Since February 9th, the gospel readings in our Sunday liturgies have been from that portion of Matthew’s gospel that is commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew artificially constructed this “sermon”. He wrote his gospel for a community of Jewish Christians. They were struggling to be faithful Jews while integrating the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus into the religion of their ancestral traditions and laws.
In the text today we heard a remarkable range of subjects: anger, retaliation, adultery and divorce. I suspect that most folks in our household of faith think this text is a warning to avoid “sin”. Thinking that the way of Jesus is about obeying God’s laws is not only unfortunate but mistaken. It is a failure to understand the Christ Mystery.
Jesus lived and taught in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, like Sirach who told his peers, “before us are life and death, good and evil, whichever we choose shall be given us.” Jesus did not devote time or energy preaching about “sin.” He simply claims, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the fullest!” His message was “the reign of God.” In the text read here today he calls us to deeper and more meaningful relationships. He calls us to be fully human.
A Catholic priest in the Midwest was teaching a class of junior boys in a high school religion class. He changed some of the wording of this gospel text and read it to his class without reference to Jesus. Then he asked two questions. “Who said this?” “What do you think about his or her ideas?”
Most of the students had more than 10 years of formal religion classes. The priest was amazed to discover that not one boy could identify Jesus as the speaker.
The response to his second question was even more startling. One student said, “I don’t know who said this, but whoever he was, he must have been crazy.”
I welcome many people to my residence for food and conversation. Early in January, after discussing the meaning of “spirituality,” I asked my guests this question. “What do you think of Edward Snowden.” Of course that led us into various issues about “national security.”
The response of at least half of my guests was encouraging. They did not mention the Sermon on the Mount. However I heard them struggle to apply the teaching of Jesus to some of the real, concrete issues that concern us as citizens of this nation.
The response of the other half was less encouraging. They sounded similar to that high school student who said, “I don’t know who said this, but whoever he was, he must have been crazy.”
These are good people and none of them would say Jesus is “crazy.” But most of them consider the various teachings and sayings of Jesus woven by Matthew into the Sermon on the Mount as unrealistic and impractical!
So now, how about you? What do you think about Christ’s vision expressed by Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount? Do you live in harmony with Christ? Doing so means building meaningful relationships, respecting differences, being consistent, inclusive and unconditional in love for others. By doing so we make “the reign of God,” that new creation envisioned by Mathew’s Jesus, into our world. “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the fullest!” That is the challenge set before us. Persist in your effort to live your life in harmony with his vision. Unless of course you think that “whoever spoke the words in this gospel ‘must have been crazy’.”