Feb. 16, 2020 - 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(Sir 15:15–20; 1 Cor 2:6–10; Mt 5:17–37)

In the Second Reading, Paul tells us: “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love him.” It’s somehow fitting that the mysterious plan of God should have a mysterious goal. As we begin to draw back the curtain on the Christian mystery by our participation in the liturgy, the reading of Scripture, private prayer, and works of mercy, we find that as the mystery of Christ’s life begins to take shape in our souls, the mysterious life of Heaven begins to sprout there, too.

In the Gospel, Matthew shows us that Jesus understood himself to be an important instrument in God’s plan for the future of Israel and the Gentiles as well. In this passage, Jesus explains that his intention isn’t to abolish all that has preceded him in God’s revelation to the Jewish people, particularly the laws given through Moses. Rather, he has “come not to abolish, but to fulfill” Jesus’s position on the Law is perfectly in concert with both his divine nature and his human nature. He will fulfill, not abolish, all that has gone before.

In first-century Israel, the hill country of Galilee was the hotbed of revolt. Revolutionaries and radicals sometimes went to this area to plot against Herod and the Romans, who were a hated occupying force. If you saw Jesus heading to the Mount, you might have assumed he was going to give a fiery speech against the Roman oppressors. If you had followed him, what you would have heard is a not a “Down with Rome!” speech, but a set of teachings about how he came not to abolish the Law of the Old Testament, but to fulfill it.

Jesus’s message was radical and revisionary, but not in the way people expected. Jesus didn’t come to say that he would free us from the moral standards of the Old Testament Law, but instead he “ups the ante.” He refocuses attention, not on a series of commands written in stone, but rather on a law that is written in the hearts of humanity. His is a revolutionary teaching, not against an oppressive government but against our own hardness of heart. In this week’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to give more than we can ever imagine, but he also promises to give us the grace and ability to fulfill that call.