There are a few things going on in today’s gospel (Mt. 5:17-37) that are worthy of reflecting upon.
The first is that Jesus wants us to take sin seriously. There is sin, sin offends God and sin wounds the one who sins. This last part is often lost in our world today. We act as if sin has no real effect on us but that is not true. Sin wounds the sinner – it weakens our will, it dulls our awareness of the truth that God intends and it hardens us to the Holy Spirit and to all that the Spirit can give us. The Spirit will not abide where sin is. So, Jesus wants us to be attentive to sin – both the outward act of sin but also how the temptation to sin is rooted within our weak nature. The quicker we learn to recognize the movement of sin within; the quicker we can cut it off at the root.
Jesus also wants us to take the work of holiness seriously. In his reflection on Psalm 119, St. Augustine writes about learning the commandments of God both in thought and in practice. Augustine writes, “(The one who wrote the psalm) adds, therefore, ‘Blessed are you, O Lord: teach me your ways of justice.’ He prays, ‘Teach me’: let me learn them as people who carry them out learn them, not as those who simply memorize them in order to have something to say.” True and authentic knowledge of God’s commandments can only be gained by striving to live the commandments. Jesus wants us to have a lived knowledge of God’s law and this knowledge can only be gained at that place where God’s grace and our will meet and we make the choice to live God’s commandment. So, be attentive to what is going on within and there make the choice for holiness. …let me learn them as people who carry them out learn them…
Finally, take God’s mercy seriously. I have learned a few things after twenty-seven years of hearing confessions and one is that we can make an idol of anything, including our sins. God will not abide idolatry in any form and there is a real temptation to put our sins and the sense of unworthiness and guilt that spring from them even before God. It seems we can put more faith in our sins than in God’s mercy. This is idolatry and it is wrong. There is nothing that God will not forgive. There is nothing greater than God’s mercy. To think our sins outweigh God’s mercy is like thinking a pebble outweighs Mount Everest. Take God’s mercy seriously.
Jesus wants us to be serious about the life of discipleship, not in a gloomy and dour way but knowing here – being attentive about sin, doing the work of holiness and taking God’s mercy seriously – is where true joy and true life is to be found.
… let me learn your commandments God as people who carry them out learn them …
(Part of this reflection is recycled from a post written in February of 2011.)