6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Feb 12, 2023
Last weekend, we started our new series on ‘tough love’ by exploring the sometimes difficult situations and people we encounter and how to handle them
with the sort of love that Jesus himself bestows.
This weekend, we’ll look at how tough love challenges us to go beyond the law and its obligations and to immerse ourselves instead, in a generous, heartfelt response to the reasons why the law is or is not valid to our lives as Christians today.
Did you hear about the dog who ran into a butcher shop and grabbed a roast beef off the counter?
Fortunately, the butcher recognized the dog as belonging to a neighbor of his. The neighbor happened to be a lawyer.
So that night, the butcher called up his neighbor and said, “Hey, your dog stole a roast from the top of the counter of my butcher shop this morning. Are you liable for the cost of the meat?”
The lawyer replied, “Of course, how much was it worth?”
“25 dollars,” replied the butcher.
A few days later, the butcher opened his mail and found a check from the lawyer for $25.00, but attached to the cheque was an invoice that read, “Legal consultation fee: $150.00.”
That lawyer could have used a refresher course on just what the purpose of the law was all about:
- Acting justly
- Taking responsibility
- Looking out for the best interests of all
Three types of laws existed in ANE:
- Ceremonial laws —how to worship, means of forgiveness, provisional with Messiah’s coming
Undergirding these laws, was a call to worship and love, to praise and adore, to serve God with our full heart, mind and soul
- Civil laws —legal relationships between people, property rights, provisional and culturally conditioned
- Moral laws —proper relationship between God and human beings, between fellow human beings, with all creation.
This type of law is what Jesus had in mind when he says, “Do not think that I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come, not to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (Mt 5: 17-18)
- Not about being scrupulous or having a strong sense of pride in one’s accomplishments.
- Not about ticking off a list of do’s and don’ts.
“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt 5:20)
Successful observance of the law requires us to dig deep.
- To have an internal and external welcoming of the law into our lives.
- Scribes and pharisees, external only.
- A godly righteousness comes from a deep-seated love and care for God and others and isn’t motivated by wanting to gain the acceptance or admiration of those in society.
That’s where the tough love comes in! Puts himself in the role of God, the law-giver by further elucidating the underlying meaning and purpose of the law in a believer’s life.
Using the fifth commandment as an example, Jesus says, “You have heard it was said to those of ancient times, ‘you shall not murder;’ and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment, but I say to you, that he who is angry with their brother or sister will be liable to judgment.”
In other words, Jesus is saying, “you know the top ten right? But I say to you……” And with this phrase Jesus establishes himself as an authority over the Word of God and the laws God has given humankind.
Read at the literal level, the ten commandments prohibited murdering other human beings. But Jesus raises the bar of that commandment to include the prohibition of harboring anger in our heart, allowing it to fester and to sore.
When we judge or reject someone out of anger, we’re in effect, dismissing them and treating them as disposable. It’s like killing that person. And that respect for life is the underlying value Jesus wants his followers to embrace.
We hear two references to Gehenna today.
- NOT the equivalent of Hell or Hades.
- an actual city dump in Jerusalem that was perpetually on fire. I
- where the city disposed of its trash.
Jesus’ point here is that when we trash talk another person, treat another person like trash, or live in anger toward another person, we risk ending up ourselves living in a smoldering dump of trash.
To overcome such mindsets and attitudes, Jesus presents an example of reconciling with one another, as even taking precedence over presenting our gifts to the altar.
Realizes how easy it is to
- use religion as an excuse to avoid the hard work of relationships and reconciliation.
- for not loving those around us.
By giving us this example, Jesus is saying we should love others so much that we’d be willing to forgo our sacrifices and gifts to the altar, in favor of repairing the broken relationship.
2nd example: about not committing adultery.
- Ever though of why it follows the commandment not to murder?
- Perhaps because of its destructive nature, it’s a kind of murder.
And since God establishes marriage as the ultimate sign of life, adultery is the representation of a form of death.
But I say to you….. “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart.” (Mt 5:28)
- Goes back to the heart! If we’re objectifying other people, seeing them just through the deep desire of lust for that person, it will negatively influence our decisions.
- Why pornography is so destructive because it changes a person’s heart over time.
Remedy is a bit of exaggeration, a rhetorical device used by Jews at the time to make a memorable point.
“If you right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of y our body than for you whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.” (Mt 5:29)
Third instruction in verse 33, “Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.”
- About telling the truth
- About honoring one’s word
“But I say to you….do not swear at all. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” (Mt 5:34, 37)
- Mitigates against the tendency to control or manipulate other people.
- Love isn’t manipulative.
- straightforward, honest and allows people to freedom to make their own choices.
Can’t be angry in our heart and be a loving person.
Can’t be lustful in our heart and be a loving person.
Can’t be about power and control and be a loving person.
We need to …..
- explore what’s truly in our heart.
- humble ourselves by getting rid of anger and hostility.
- fast to get rid of lustful thoughts and desires.
- apologize to those whom we’ve tried to manipulate.
- pray for the grace to remove whatever doesn’t belong in our hearts and to replace it with the abiding love and transformative power of the HS.
If this sounds tough, it is! One of the greatest symbols of overcoming the tough parts of life is the Cross of Christ.
From there that Jesus hanged to instruct us on the power of God’s love to overcome all and every sin imaginable.
Next weekend, we’ll explore how to tough love challenges us to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors.
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