6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 12, 2017 – Year A
Readings: Sir 15:15-20 / Psalm 119 / 1 Cor 2:6-10 / Mt 5:17-37
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Today’s Gospel is one of the first sections of the New Testament that I ever came across that caused me great concern. I don’t recall when I first read it, but it was probably on a Sunday morning reading the pew Bible instead of listening to the preacher. (Don’t do that, kids! Listen to Father Sal!) It occurred to me that what I read seemed like a contradiction. When you read the whole Gospel story, it seems like Jesus was always railing against the Pharisees because of the law. It seems like he had no use for it. It seems like he wanted to throw the law away. I knew this could not be true, but it confused me at the time.
This calls to mind a specific situation that I came across. How many of you have heard that it takes 22 days to establish a habit? Sounds pretty good to me; that’s about 3 weeks. Well it turns out they did some research in 2009 and determined that this is wrong. In the 2009 study, the time frame actually averaged 66 days, which is more than twice as long. The good news of that study was that the span was huge; some people could establish a habit in only 18 days but others took over 200 days. So I guess I shouldn’t be too upset.
What this tells us is that making a change can be difficult. I have previously mentioned a time I experienced something like this. All throughout my childhood, teen years, and early adulthood, I could eat anything I wanted, as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted. I never had a problem until I was about 30 and I went for a physical. The blood tests did not come out good. It occurred to me that I was not gifted with some miraculous metabolism better than anyone else’s. The laws of the world and chemistry really did apply to me. So I set out to change my eating habits because I didn’t want to suffer the consequences. I discovered that there is all kinds of helpful advice for doing that. There are all of these steps that you can take. I also discovered that it’s not necessarily enough to just follow the steps. Research tells us that if you just follow the steps, it is very easy to fall back into old habits.
I think this is key to understanding what is going on in today’s Gospel. You see, the laws, most specifically the Ten Commandments, and Precepts of the Church are not intended to be a list of things to just follow. They are intended to be like these steps to bettering ourselves, to developing good habits or eliminating bad habits. You follow the steps, but the important thing is that you understand where they are leading you and that you take them to heart and make them part of you. That is when the big change happens. These Commandments are intended to change us, to bring us closer to God. They are not just a list of check marks.
What Jesus railed against was the people who only saw the laws but not the principles behind them. Jesus even spelled it out for us in the Gospel. He said the greatest Commandments were to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength, AND to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the founding principle of Christianity. That’s who God is – Love. If we follows the rules we may get by, but I think you will find that if you take the heart of the Gospel and make it part of yourselves, you won’t need the rules. They will just come naturally.
Today’s Old Testament reading sums it up pretty well: it says there is a choice before each one of us; the choice between life and death, good and evil. If we take the crux, the heart of the Gospel, and make it part of us through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will choose the right path.