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“THOU SHALT NOT KILL”: TO FULFIL THIS COMMANDMENT, IT IS NOT ENOUGH JUST TO REFRAIN FROM PHYSICALLY MURDERING SOMEONE

“THOU SHALT NOT KILL”: TO FULFIL THIS COMMANDMENT, IT IS NOT ENOUGH JUST TO REFRAIN FROM PHYSICALLY MURDERING SOMEONE

For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:20)

The righteousness of the Pharisees is that they shall not kill; the righteousness of those who are destined to enter into the kingdom of heaven is that they shall not be angry without cause. Not to kill is, therefore, the least commandment; and whoever shall break that shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever shall fulfil that commandment not to kill will not necessarily be great and fit for the kingdom of heaven; but yet he has ascended to a certain degree. He will be made perfect, however, if he refrains from anger without cause; and if he shall do this, he will be removed much further from the guilt of murder. And, therefore, he who teaches that we should not be angry, does not destroy the law which forbids us to kill, but rather completes it; so that we preserve our innocence both outwardly when we do not kill, and in the heart when we refrain from anger.

– From: St Augustine, Bishop, Book 1 on the Sermon of the Lord on the Mount, Ch. 9, from An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

 

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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“PREACHING PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE AFAR OFF, AND PEACE TO THEM THAT WERE NIGH” (EPH.2:17)

INTERIOR PEACE

It was in November of the year 1915 that Pope Benedict XV ordained that the invocation “Queen of Peace” should be added to the Litany of Loreto. To whom, indeed, under God could the Pope have appealed with greater confidence than to that Blessed Mother who gave us the Prince of Peace, Him who, in the words of St Paul, is “our peace” (Eph. 2:14) and “preaching peace to you who were afar off, and peace to them that were nigh (Eph. 2:17) and by whom peace was brought into the world unto “men of goodwill.” As fitted the Mother of such a Son, she ever possessed within her soul and cultivated therein a deep, interior, ineffable peace, which could not be disturbed by any of the rude blasts which make for contention in the affairs of men. In her, there never was, nor could be, any trace of rebellion, inward or outward. She was exempt from all concupiscence, and therefore from all that inward turmoil that results in ourselves from the perpetual conflict of spirit with the flesh. She was free, moreover, from any guilt of actual sin, and consequently free from that gnawing sense of remorse, that everlasting prick of an outraged conscience, which makes the inspired writer assure us “there is no peace for the wicked” (Is.68:22). And that most wonderful peace of her most pure heart was reflected in the unalterable calm and harmony that reigned in her home at Nazareth, the ideal abode of mutual regard, and willing service, and love unutterable. Sorrows indeed fell to her lot in abundance. They are the badge of the servants of God, and the higher she stood in His regard, the more was it necessary that she should suffer and be tried during her sojourn upon earth. But tribulations, the most intense that have ever overtaken a creature, could not affect the deep-seated peace and tranquillity of her inmost soul. They were but on the surface: they were the ripples of the waves, if you will, which ruffle the surface wastes of the ocean, but penetrate no further and disturb not the everlasting calm of the great deep below.

The peace of Christ which surpasseth all understanding (Phil.4:7)

Whenever we recite the Litany of Loreto it is meet that we should earnestly invoke our Mother Mary by the latest title given her by the Church, that of Queen of Peace, beseeching her that she may grant us “peace in our days”, that “peace of Christ which surpasseth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

When the great temple of Solomon was being built at Jerusalem, we are told that “there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house when it was building” (3 Kings [1 Kings] 6:7). And likewise we cannot erect in our own soul, or indeed attain any spiritual comfort or happiness in this world, unless we secure real interior peace, that silence of the heart which alone enables us to hear the “still small voice of the Lord” speaking unto us, and to perceive the motions of grace working within us. Now, if we are to compass that heavenly state of mind, we have to see to it that we be at peace with God, at peace with our neighbour, and at peace with ourselves.

We must be at peace with God

First of all, then, we must be at peace with God. We must not be conscious that there is a bar or an obstacle between ourselves and our Maker, that we are living in His disgrace, that were we to die in our present condition, we should find our salvation forfeited and our lot cast for evermore with the reprobate.

It is obvious that anyone who has thus placed himself in a state of open rebellion against the dictate of the divine law has put himself out of court, as it were, and is incapable of experiencing the joys of interior peace.

Neither can there be much inward tranquillity even for one who may perhaps keep himself free from grievous sin but who is habitually careless and lukewarm, unfaithful to prayer and daily falls into venial sins, making little account of them. Such a one is in great danger of soon falling into mortal sin and he cannot but carry with him an uneasy conscience, a certain doubt as to the place he holds in God’s esteem, a fear in fact that all is not well between himself and his Creator; and such a condition of mind is easily seen to be destructive of that peace of soul which results from the knowledge that God is pleased with us and that the sunshine of His countenance is upon us. These considerations are so plain and obvious that we may pass at once to the second condition that makes for interior peace.

We must be at peace with our neighbour

We must be at peace with our neighbour. Of all passions disturbing to the soul, the passion of anger may be singled out as standing pre-eminent. Once allow it to obtain a hold of our being and to vent itself against a fellow being and straightaway all inward calm and tranquillity vanish. The physical frame itself is shaken: the face loses or adds to its colour according to temperament: the judgement is warped and we say or do things that we should never dream of saying or doing in our normal state.

Anger

And if we do not suppress the passion at once, if contrary to the warning of the Apostle, we allow “the sun to go down on our anger” (Eph. 4:36), it will soon be converted into animosity and hatred, and we have a condition of the soul from which it is difficult to be freed, for our passion then grows more and more in intensity by feeding upon a thousand false interpretations and conclusions. Never indeed does an irate man acknowledge to himself or to others that his ire is not justified.

There can therefore be no question of much interior peace in a choleric person who yields easily and frequently to the impulses of his excitable temperament. It is true that we are told in more than one place in Holy Writ that it is possible to “be angry and yet not to sin” (Eph. 4:26). Occasions may arise when it is our duty even to show indignation because of the evil doings of our subordinates, or, it may be, of those who are our equals. But we should do so with moderation, without any exhibition of temper, seriously but quietly, with due regard to Christian charity, which always claims its rights even in the midst of a just remonstrance. Our admonition will lose none of its effectiveness for being conveyed in a calm and judicial manner, whereas if we show heat and passion, our words are discounted in advance and lose much of their force in the mind of the person in the mind of the mind of the person we reprimand. As St Francis de Sales puts it, we must not be like those ushers or officers in a parliament who, whenever there is a hubbub in the house, go shouting “Order, order” in a voice louder by far than that of those whose clamour they would suppress.

Jealousy

Besides animosities and aversions, all of which spring from the same root, there is another passion having relation to our neighbour which may very appreciably disturb our peace of mind. It is jealousy; and jealousy being one of the capital sins is a universal sins is a universal vice which easily finds entrance into the hearts of even pious people. It may not reach the fierce intensity of Othello’s passion but it can be at times quite upsetting and demoralising. That “tristitia de bono alterius”, as the moralists call it, may be a very real pain, and those who have experienced it in any marked degree know full well how it gnaws at our very heart strings and leaves no respite or breathing space, so long as we allow our mind to dwell on the real or fancied preference given to another.

But not only does it torture but it also distorts, and we soon become convinced that our neighbour is unworthy of the good luck that comes to him. It may be that we find ourselves supplanted by him in the affection of those whose regard we prize or the popularity which he enjoys. Such marks of superiority over ourselves irritate and gall us, even though in reality they are mere pin-pricks.

Unfortunately when we are so affected we are prompted to seek some sort of relief in speaking in disparaging terms of those who are the objects of our jealousy, sometimes even with much bitterness and little truth. In this way we manifest the pettiness of this our jealousy, when on all counts we should be anxious to conceal it. Nothing can be more wounding to our self-love than to be accounted by others as being of a jealous disposition, and yet when they see us, thus jealous and captious, they cannot but see through us and through the miserable motives by which we are actuated.

As we hope to possess interior peace, therefore, it is necessary that we keep down within us all sentiments of resentment and green-eyed jealousy in regard to our fellow men.

We must be at peace with ourselves

To be at peace, however, with God and our fellow men, will not secure for us that priceless gift of inward peace unless we learn to be at peace with ourselves. And we may understand by this, that not only must we be free from the haunting consciousness of grievous sin, which is itself, of course, destructive of all peace, but we must have trained ourselves, to overcome at least the ordinary outbursts of human passion.

To be truly peaceful, the soul must not be the scene of an everlasting warfare, of a constant and acute conflict between the lower instincts of the body and the nobler aspirations which come to us through grace.

The flesh and body on one hand and Divine Grace on the other

If we are living lives of self-conquest and abnegation, the result should appear in a certain readiness and facility with which we guard ourselves against the first onset of temptation and turn away from whatsoever might disturb and distress the repose of the soul. There should be realised in us the words of the Apostle:

“The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but justice and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17)

Being but human beings, however, we are sure to fall into many faults, failings, imperfections, inordinations, and sins at least of a venial nature, and we must be careful not to allow these defects to interfere with the inmost peace of our soul. We may humble ourselves at the sight of our many miseries, but it must be done sweetly, calmly, in a spirit of confidence that God will assist us in the future as He has done in the past. He bears with all our imperfections and we must learn to bear with them ourselves.

We must not be surprised to find that frailty is frail, and temptation is tempting, and the slime of the earth is of an earthly nature. We may be sorry and contrite for our repeated failings, and endeavour to amend them day by day, but we need not ourselves to be troubled at their sight. We must not be like those who falling into a fit of anger become angry with themselves for being angry. Strictly speaking, they fall into a vicious circle out of which there is no logical issue.

We have to do our work without hurry, relying wholly on the Providence of God

However busy you may be, cultivate the habit of recollection and of every now and of every now and then pausing to recommend your work to God and of offering it anew to Him.

“Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:41).

Had Martha not allowed herself to become worried and anxious she would not have drawn upon herself the gentle reproof of Our Lord. Instead of appreciating the calm restraint and tranquillity of her sister, she was always in a ferment, rushing hither and thither, and indignant when others did not help her. In order to have true peace, then, we have to do our work quietly, without hurry, relying wholly on the Providence of God, and then whether we succeed or whether we fail, we shall know that what happens is most profitable for our soul.

In the picturesque and graceful language of St Francis de Sales, we must act as little children who with one hand hold on to their father and with the other pluck berries and fruits as they proceed along the hedges. In like manner, says the Saint, we must cull and gather the good things of this world with one hand, but with the other we must always grasp the hand of our heavenly Father and turn to Him from time to time to see whether He be pleased with us and our behaviour. Above all we must be careful not to let go His hand and His protection, on the pretext that we shall thus be enabled to gather more, for then, adds the holy Doctor, we shall not go far, without “coming a cropper” – sans donner du nez en terre. (Vie Dévote, III, ch.10)

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 

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BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL (Mt 5:7) – HOW MERCIFUL DO WE NEED TO BE?

Blessed are the merciful

“You probably would feel quite offended if someone were to describe you as a cruel person. Yet, can you truthfully say that you never have caused unnecessary pain to another? You never have harshly criticised another, humiliated another or made cutting remarks to another? If you can answer, ‘Never’ (or even ‘Seldom’) to all such questions, then you are indeed close to the heart of Christ. ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ He has said, ‘for they shall obtain mercy.’

Vigilance, lest power corrupt in us the spirit of mercy

Few of us are so accomplished in this matter of mercy that we can afford to assume that we are included in our Lord’s blessing. Those of us who are in any position of authority, such as employers, supervisors, officials, teachers and religious superiors, have particular need to be vigilant lest power corrupt in us the spirit of mercy. It is so easy to be caustic towards those who cannot strike back.

Having others ‘at our mercy’

Failure in mercy is not confined, of course, to persons explicitly in positions of authority. There are many ways of having others ‘at our mercy’. We have the upper hand, for example, any time we enter a store or a restaurant. Since the customer is always right, clerks, waiters and managers must bear with our discourtesies in silent helplessness.

Often we inflict the deepest pain upon those we love

Often we inflict the deepest pain upon those who are bound to us by love. A husband snarls at his wife or a wife screams at her husband. Sometimes parents excoriate their children out of all proportion, making a capital offence of what is, at worst, a minor misdemeanor.

Venting our anger on the next best person

More often than not, the reason why we are grumpy or snappish toward another is because we have bottled-up feelings of resentment or frustration which press for ventilation. A teacher who has just been reprimanded by his principal, for example, will land like a charge of dynamite on the first pupil who steps out of line in the least degree. Nine-tenths of our temper explosions really do not belong at all to the hapless person who is rocked by our anger. Our victim simply happens to be the nearest and most defenceless object upon whom we can discharge our emotional pressure.

Reacting savagely to minor annoyances

Sometimes it is nervous fatigue or physical distress (such as a headache) which causes us to react savagely to minor annoyances. Like a sick animal, we growl and bare our teeth at anyone, however innocent, who happens to cross our path.

A gentleman never gives pain

Cardinal Newman has described a gentleman as one who never gives pain. A gentleman bears his own inner hurts and tensions with fortitude and does not visit them upon others. It is an infallible sign of a small mind and a weak character when a person is discourteous toward those over whom he has some advantage.

There are times, of course, when a person in authority must administer an admonition or a rebuke. Yet, even this can be done with gentleness and tact. It is so much better to say, ‘You are doing a fine job, George, but there is one small thing which I feel I should call to your attention,’ than to shout, ‘You stupid fool! See what you’ve done!’…

Our Lord Jesus singled out the virtue of mercifulness for special attention

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ It is no wonder that Jesus singled out the virtue of mercifulness for such special attention. This is the one virtue above all others which characterises Himself. His patience, His allowance for human weakness, His compassion, His quickness to forgive – all combine to give us confidence as we pray to Him, ‘Lord, have mercy!’

The people whose lives touch ours have enough suffering already. It is inexcusable if we add to their hurt by our discourtesy, ill-temper and vindictiveness. If we cannot be gentle, patient and forgiving toward one another, then Jesus has a right to ask, ‘What price My crucifixion? Was it, then, all in vain?'”

– Fr Leo J. Trese, One Step Enough

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Words of Wisdom

 

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“BLESSED ARE THE MEEK” – HOW DO WE IMPROVE OUR LEVEL OF MEEKNESS?

WEEPING FOR OUR SINS

“Being a disciple of Christ means being meek and gentle. And from what source may we draw this meekness? If we are continually mindful of our sins, if we grieve for them, if we weep for them. A soul which habitually feels such contrition does not permit itself to become vexed and angry.

In truth, where there is sorrow, anger cannot be; where there is compunction, anger is altogether out of place; where there is contrition of soul, there is no irritation. The soul that suffers the lash of contrition has no time to be aroused to anger, but it groans bitterly and weeps more bitterly.

‘HAVE MERCY ON ME, O GOD, ACCORDING TO YOUR GREAT MERCY’

Now, I know that many laugh when they hear these words, but I do not cease mourning for those who laugh. The present time is the time for mourning and grieving, because we commit many sins in word and deed…

Indeed, hear what the Prophet said: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy.’ Well, then, we also must have mercy on our neighbours in this way: according to the great mercy shown to us. For we shall obtain the kind of treatment from our Lord that we give to our fellow servants.

And what is ‘great mercy’ like? When we give, not from superfluities, but from our necessities. But if we do not even give from our superfluities, what hope will there be for us? When shall we be rid of those sins of ours? Where shall we be able to flee and find salvation?”
– St John Chrysostom

 

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14th MARCH, GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 5:20-26)

GO AND BE RECONCILED WITH YOUR BROTHER FIRST.

Jesus said to his disciples: “For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill, and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court.

But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother ‘Fool’ he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin, and if a man calls him ‘Renegade’ he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

PREPARING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

“In Galilee Jesus announced to the people that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He invited them to repent of their sins that they might enter the kingdom. He insinuated that He was the Messiah by assuming the title ‘Son of Man,’ and by claiming to be the ‘Lord of the Sabbath.’ He also claimed the divine power to forgive the sins of men. He authenticated these claims by the miraculous cures He worked. The nature of His teaching and His claims and the miracles which accompanied them excited the admiration of the people. Some, such as Peter and Andrew, James, John and Nathanael, attached themselves to Him as disciples. But the Pharisees refused to accept Him or His claims and resolved to do away with Him.

THE CHOICE OF HIS TWELVE APOSTLES SHOWS JESUS CHRIST’S INTENTION OF EXTENDING AND BROADENING HIS WORK ON EARTH

Despite their opposition Jesus continued His work to establish the kingdom of heaven. Some time after the crystalisation of the opposition of the Pharisees to Him He took the first definitive measures to ensure the continuation and the extension of His work on earth. He went up a mountain and prayed to God. Then He summoned His disciples and from them He chose twelve Apostles to assist Him in His work. As St Mark says:

‘… he appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them forth to preach. To them he gave power to cure sicknesses and to cast out devils. There were Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter, and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (these he surnamed Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him’ (Mark 3:14-19).

The choice of the twelve Apostles is an important event in the Galilean ministry of Jesus. It shows, first of all, His intention to broaden the field of His work. He chooses them so that they also may preach the kingdom of heaven, and preach it in power, for He gives them the power to work miracles. They will bring His message and power to those to whom He Himself will not personally appear.

THE ROLE OF THE APOSTLES

Secondly, by choosing only twelve out of His followers, and by giving only to those twelve the power to preach the kingdom, Jesus Himself establishes a distinction of function and authority among His disciples. Some will be only His disciples; by their belief in Him and by their repentance they will enter the kingdom with Him and enjoy its blessings. But others – the twelve Apostles – will not only enter the kingdom with Him to enjoy its blessings, they will also share in His own power to establish the kingdom, to rule it, to preach its doctrines and to disperse its blessings.

Lastly, it is interesting to note that Jesus chose twelve Apostles. No doubt He chose twelve in remembrance of the fact that God’s blessings were promised to the twelve tribes of Israel. In this way He relates the founding of the kingdom of heaven to the original promises made by God to Israel.

THE BEAUTIFUL SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Shortly after the choice of the twelve Apostles Jesus ascended a mountain again and delivered to His disciples, and perhaps to some of the crowd that followed Him the beautiful Sermon on the Mount. The high moral and spiritual tone of this sermon has retained the admiration of all men down to the present time. It is well to remember though, that the sermon does not contain the whole message of Jesus. In it He does not, for example, speak of the nature of His Church nor of the doctrine of Redemption. These and other doctrines He will speak of later. In the Sermon on the Mount He is content to describe to His disciples the moral climate of the Kingdom of Heaven, its identity with and its perfecting the Old Law delivered to the world through Moses and the Prophets.

Jesus begins His sermon with the Beatitudes:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3-10).

THE SPIRITUAL ATTRIBUTES AND BLESSINGS OF THE MEMBERS OF THE KINGDOM

In these Beatitudes Jesus describes both the spiritual attributes of the members of the kingdom of heaven and the blessings which God gives them both in this present world and in the world to come, in this present time and in eternity. The members of the kingdom, the disciples of Christ, must be ‘poor in spirit,’ ‘meek,’ that is, they must be men who turn to God alone for relief from the woes of this world. They are men who mourn their sufferings, but who hope for consolation in union with the sufferings of the Messias. They are men who hunger and thirst for justice, that is, holiness. They are men who extend mercy to all, who live in union with God in purity of heart, who seek to bring peace to the troubled world of men, who suffer persecution for the sake of Christ, the Son of Man.

The men who possess these spiritual qualities will be members of the kingdom of heaven: ‘theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ They will inherit the Messianic blessings. To them will be given purity of heart, real holiness. In eternity they shall be called the children of God and they will see God face to face.

FALLEN MAN’S NATURE LEFT TO ITS OWN DEVICES TENDS TO SEEK SECURITY RATHER THAN HOLINESS

In the Beatitudes Jesus simply but strongly shows the contrast between the conception of life of fallen man and the new idea of life which He has come to realise in the kingdom of heaven.

Fallen man, betrayed by his own weaknesses and misled by the devil, tends to find security and happiness by relying on force and power. He puts his faith in wealth and domination, rather than in God. He seeks security rather than holiness. He chafes under poverty, distress or suffering. He will not forgive injuries or extend mercy to the erring. Insecure in such happiness as he may find, he is ever at odds with his neighbours. Afraid of pain and loss, he will compromise with truth and principle for the sake of comfort.

IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN MAN’S ESTIMATE OF VALUES IS CHANGED

But in the kingdom of heaven which Jesus is to establish, man, with God’s help, will change his estimate of values. He will no longer be so passionately, so desperately concerned with the pleasures, the wealth, the power of this world. He will raise his eyes on high and seek the holiness, the justice of God. To gain this great blessing he will rely not on his own strength but on the power and the love of God. Trusting in God he will hope for his own ultimate redemption. Buoyed up by this consoling hope he will accept his own sufferings, the penalty of sin, and will extend mercy and peace to his fellow sufferers in the general torment of mankind. Firm in this hope he will suffer persecution, even unto death of his mortal body, for the sake of attaining union with God in justice and holiness.

UNION WITH GOD IN JUSTICE AND HOLINESS

After the solemn announcement of the Beatitudes Jesus addresses His disciples more directly and tells them that they are the recipients of these blessings, and through them these same blessings will be given to the world.

‘You are the salt of the earth,’ He tells them. ‘You are the light of the world … so let your light shine before men in order that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:13, 14, 16).

‘I HAVE NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFIL’

Following this admonition to the disciples Jesus goes on to explain the relation between the Law of His kingdom and the Old Law of Moses and the Prophets.

‘Do not think,’ He says, ‘that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For amen I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall be lost from the Law till all things have been accomplished’ (Matthew 5:17-18).

Since Jesus Himself in the rest of the sermon will make some changes in the Old Law, and since His Apostles will later abrogate many of the detailed and minute prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, this statement of Jesus is not easy to understand. Fortunately He Himself provides the clues to His real meaning.

A HIGHER PLANE OF MORALITY

In the first place, we notice that the changes which Jesus Himself institutes are not so much an abrogation of the Mosaic Law as they are an extension of it, or rather an elevation of it to a higher plane of morality. Thus Jesus tells His disciples that not only is murder wrong but even anger against or contempt for one’s fellow man.

CHARITY IS THE FOUNDATION

It is quite clear also that the foundation of the changes made by Jesus is love or charity.

‘You have heard,’ He says, ‘that it was said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and shalt hate thy enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you and calumniate you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun to rise on the good and the evil, and sends rain on the just and the unjust’ (Matthew 5:43, 45).

Men are to love one another as God loves them, loving both friends and enemies, both good and evil, the just and the unjust. In this way, men, as Jesus says to His disciples, ‘are to be perfect, even as (their) heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48).

WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE LAW OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?

The bond of continuity or identity between the Mosaic Law and the new Law of the kingdom of heaven is love, the love of God for men and the love of men for God and for their fellowmen in God. Jesus will say later that the two great commandments of the Old Law are the commands to love God and to love one’s neighbour, and He will explain that one’s neighbour is every fellow human being. Even here in the Sermon on the Mount He sums up the Old Law in the Golden Rule:

‘Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, even so do you also to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets’ (Matthew 7:12).

And this Golden Rule is a law of love, for it commands men to love one another with the wholehearted love they give themselves.

When Jesus says, then, that He has not come to destroy the Mosaic Law but to fulfil it, He means that He will not revoke the essential meaning of that Law, the law of love. But He will fulfil it by extending the scope or the object of love and by deepening the quality of love. In His kingdom men must love God and all other men, and in this way Jesus makes all men the object of Christian love.

Moreover Jesus deepens the quality of love by insisting that it is concerned not only with external actions but also with the inner man, with the heart and the mind of man. So he castigates not only the actual adulterer, but even those who look with lust at another human being (Matthew 5:27-28).

IN THE KINGDOM THERE IS NO HUMAN PRAISE FOR PIETY – IT GOES WITHOUT SAY

Jesus also emphasises the purity of the love which He demands in His kingdom by contrasting the piety demanded of His disciples with the piety of the Pharisees. The Scribes and the Pharisees perform works of piety ostentatiously so that they may be well regarded by men. When they give alms to the poor, they call it to everyone’s attention. When they fast, they disfigure their faces and look gloomy so that all may know they are fasting. On the contrary the disciples of Jesus are not to parade their virtues before the crowd, nor to seek the praise of men for their piety. They are to do good for the sake of God alone, and God will give them their true reward. They are to pray often, for prayer is powerful. God will answer their prayers. They are not to judge others; judgement is reserved to God. Their love of God must be a real, an effective love; it must be a love which produces works of virtue. ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 7:21).

A TRUE INTERIOR LOVE

The primary message of the Sermon on the Mount is the message of love. Jesus accepts what His Father had revealed to mankind through Moses and the Prophets, the law of love. Men are to love not only their friends but also their enemies, not only their fellow countrymen but also all men.

The true child of God loves all men. And this love must be a true interior love, proceeding from the innermost heart of man, a love as strong as his love for himself. Moreover it must be a love patterned after God’s love for men, complete, sovereign and impartial. As such it will go far beyond the demands of the old Mosaic Law. It will rule not only the external actions of a man but also his innermost thoughts and desires. It will be a total, a dedicated love. In this present world it will be a disinterested love, seeking no present reward for men.

JESUS CHRIST’S MESSAGE IS STARTLING

When Jesus had finished preaching this message of love, this foundation of His kingdom, as St Matthew tells us, ‘the crowds were astonished at his teaching; for he was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their Scribes and Pharisees’ (Matthew 7:28).

It was clear to the crowd that had followed Jesus that there was something new and strange about the preaching of Jesus. Not only was His message new and startling but He had deliberately emphasised the difference between His preaching and the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees. The latter spoke as theologians, appealing to the authority of other theologians or to the authority of their ancient scriptures. But Jesus dared to speak in His own name and, in His own name, to make changes in the Pharisaic interpretations of the law.

Though the crowds did not fully realise it, Jesus was speaking to them as the Christ, the Messias, instituting the Kingdom of God. He spoke as the Lawgiver, establishing the new law of grace which would be the foundation of the Kingdom of God.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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16th FEBRUARY, GOSPEL READING (MATTHEW 5:17-37)

JESUS TEACHES THE TRUE MEANING OF THE LAW.

“Do not think that I have come to annul the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to annul them but to fulfil them. I tell you this: as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the Law will change until all is fulfilled.

So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them, and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the kingdom of heaven.

I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said to our people in the past, ‘Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial.’ But now I tell you: whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial. Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister ‘Fool!’ deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.

Don’t forget this: be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you this: anyone who looks at a woman too lustfully has in fact already committed adultery with her in his heart.

So, if your right eye causes you to sin, pull it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell.

It was also said: ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce.’ But what I tell you is this: if a man divorces his wife, except in the case of unlawful union, he causes her to commit adultery. And the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

You have also heard that people were told in the past: ‘Do not break your oath; an oath sworn to the Lord must be kept.’ But I tell you this: do not take oaths. Do not swear by the heavens, for they are God’s throne, nor by the earth, because it is his footstool, nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great king. Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. Say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘yes’, and say ‘no’ when you mean ‘no’. Anything else you say comes from the devil.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 
 

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