Life On Earth Is A Time Of Learning
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) Scriptural Readings: Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37 or 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37
My dear encountered couples:
“I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come, not to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” So said Jesus as he tried to teach the Jewish people of his time the perfection of love of God and neighbor.
The path from infancy through childhood, the teenage years on into adulthood, the process of maturing, is a long path, often very difficult and heavy in responsibility. To enter into the basics of learning, then building and building with knowledge gained through study and experience, finally topped with wisdom, requires an heroic commitment, a stick-to-a-tiveness that many seem not to accept. Yet, to become a mature adult person we must put ourselves completely into the challenge. The only alternative is to remain childish and undeveloped.
Therefore, parents get their children started on that path of growth by giving or obtaining for them the lessons of reading, writing and arithmetic. Although the children may not understand what all this study is for, as further learning is built upon these three basic R's, they begin to see the value in having done their lessons and learned well. They grow to understand how better life becomes from having devoted so much effort to the foundation of knowledge and learning. What has been taught them and what became a part of their lives makes it possible for them to better live in this world so they can become contributors to people's lives and not merely takers. They have and are growing, developing, and maturing towards completion as human beings.
To obtain full maturity and fulfillment, humans need also to learn and grow to full stature spiritually by means of faith and moral living. From the moment humans began to live on this earth, God began the task of teaching them the basics of faith and morality - what to believe about him and themselves - how to live well with God and people. This is not an easy task. For any being created with free will tends to sever the bond linking them to the creator like children wanting to break away from their parents. For a human to turn away from God is to break all ties to goodness, love, forgiveness, justice, etc. God constantly has to reach out, invite us back, and then try to teach us more.
The Jewish people were expressly selected to be the ones through whom God was going to teach the world what to believe and how to live so we can achieve the happiness for which each person is created. God began by leading the Jewish people towards trusting him and believing in only one God while their neighbors believed in gods of all kinds. He invited them to be better in their treatment of one another than the pagans, their neighbors.
As an example: It seems the people of the world had a me-first type of mentality. Seek and obtain what you can for yourself without regard for your neighbor. Might makes right. Do to others before they do it to you. Conquerors of the world were looked up to, not only out of fear but out of respect for the strength and ingenuity the conqueror showed by subduing others. God through the prophets told the Jewish people, “Quit all this murdering of your fellow humans. Anyone who kills and murders will be condemned.” Thus the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Now Jesus says to the people, “You have heard the commandment imposed on your forefathers, ‘You shall not commit murder; every murderer will be liable to judgment.’ What I say to you is: everyone who uses abusive language toward his brother shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin (that's the group that condemned Jesus to death), and if he holds him in contempt he risks the fires of Gehenna (hell).” Then Jesus goes on to tell them that if you are even offering your gift at the altar (as we are here today) and remember that anyone has anything against you, go first to become reconciled with that person, and then come back and offer your gift.
Jesus is completing for us this particular lesson in morality. God takes the people from the pagan environment where almost any treatment of another is taken for granted all the way to telling us to make up with everybody. Be at peace with each person. In next week's gospel Jesus will even tell us to turn the other cheek and pray for our enemies.
This is just one example of a part of what Jesus meant when he said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” As a child begins mathematics by learning 2+2=4 and finally graduates to calculus and beyond, people are told to quit killing each other off and learn how to not only put up with one another but to sincerely love everybody.
Jesus quoted the commandment prohibiting adultery, a practice rampant in pagan societies. He said, “What I say is: anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his thoughts.” Then he continues to stress the necessity of sexual purity. People are taken from an anything goes attitude towards sex to a pure love and rightful use of human sexuality.
These and many other lessons took centuries and centuries to teach to the Jews. Jesus brought the perfection of the principles to live by in order for us to achieve true happiness. Mankind learns slowly. How far have we come? I'll let you be the judge. But while you are judging, do not just look to others to make your decision. Look at yourself. Compare your ways to the life taught by Christ. How far have Y2£ progressed since infancy?
Life on earth is a time of learning, a time during which to grow in total human maturity. You began at conception, really got into it at birth, and should be intensely involved until death. Each of us is an unfinished product. By cooperating with the Holy Spirit within us we can approach closer to completion before entering eternity. Who knows? The job may continue on there for - for - I don't know - maybe forever. Do your best. But be patient with yourself as you should be with others - and as God is with all of us.