Lectio Divina: 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
The new "justice"
This was said to the ancients, but I tell you...
a) Opening prayer
"Speak, Lord, that your servant is listening. " Speak to us now, Lord! We want to make room for your Word, to allow the words of the Gospel permeate our lives so that you become the light the strength of our way, vivify and transform our attitudes. We all want to mature in the way of listening to your words so that our hearts are transformed.
In us, there is a desire reading and understand why we are expecting for your bounty and generosity to be guided in comprehending of your Word.
Let your word to our hearts cannot find any obstacles or resistance. That your word of life does not flow in vain or in the dried desert of our lives. Enter in our empty hearts with the power of your Word, come to take the place among our thoughts and feelings, come to live with us in the light of your truth.
b) Gospel according to Matthew ( Mt 5:17-37)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with brother
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to brother, ‘Raqa,’
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife -‑ unless the marriage is unlawful -‑
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.
But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,' and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”
c) Moment of silence
The silence creates an internal atmosphere of intimacy and at the same time increase the spiritual taste of your Word.
a) Key to the reading
Mt 5-7: The context in the “Sermon on the mount”
Jesus addressed to the crowds who are in hurry to listen to his teaching. They are amazed with his authority. He speaks to them with strong demand and points out that we are children of God and brothers and sister to each others. In the attempt to give the full meaning of the precept of the Jewish law.
The evangelist, in locating the first discourse of Jesus on the mountain, wished to draw the attention to the readers the image of Moses giving the Law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:9). This teaching takes place as Jesus is seated, a position that recalls the attitude of the Jewish rabbi who interprets Scripture to his disciples. It is difficult to capture the richness of the themes that run through long speech, as some scholars prefer to call it “the evangelical words of Jesus"(cf. 7:28).
Our liturgical text is preceded by a prologue in which the Beatitudes are presented as the fulfillment of the Law (Mt 5.3 to 16). The message of Jesus in this teaching focuses on happiness in the biblical sense, which places man in right relationship with God and, therefore, with total life: happiness tied to the reality of the kingdom of heaven. In a second part Jesus develops the theme of "justice" of the kingdom of heaven (5.17 to 7.12).
Mt 5.17: Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.
In these first statements Jesus presents himself as the one who come to "fulfills the law": "Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I came not to abolish but to fully fulfill them " (v.17). Jesus declares that he is the fulfillment of the law.
The consequences of such words are thus understood by the reader: only through him what we can enter the kingdom of heaven, even the smallest of the commandments makes sense through Him. It's like saying that Jesus is the measure to enter the kingdom of heaven: in Him, anyone, great or small, depends on the choice of letting ourselves be led by one who fulfills the Law and the Prophets. Henceforth the law, the teaching of the prophets, the justice the salvation must bond with Him.
The reader knows that in the Old Testament these truths were seen like separate and distinguished among them: the Law contained the will of God; justice expressed the human engagement in order to observe the contents of God’s will in the Law; the Prophets, exegetes of the Law, were the witnesses of the implementation of the fidelity of God in the history. In the person of Jesus these three truths are unified: they find their meaning and value. Jesus declares openly that he has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. What do these affirmations of Jesus mean? What is the meaning of “the Law and the Prophets”? We cannot be thinking of Jesus carrying out prophecies (from a point of view of the content, or in the literal sense) of the Law and the Prophets, but rather the instructions of the Law and the Prophets. But in particular way what means “to abolish”, “to fulfill” the instructions of the Law and the Prophets? The answer is placed at two levels.
The first one regards the instruction of Jesus, than it does not change the contents of the Law and the Prophets and whose function was didactic-instructive; indeed, Mathew considers the Prophets like the witnesses of the commandment of love (Os 6,6 // Mt 9,13; 12,7). That Jesus accomplishes the instructions of the Law and the Prophets can mean that “manifest them in their meaning”, “brings to complete expression” (U. Luz); it is from excluding the meaning of “to invalidate”, “to abolish”, “not to observe”, “to break( to smash)”.
The second level is referred to the involved acting of Jesus: does the law itself changes or not? In this case to fulfill the Law could mean that Jesus, with its behavior, adds something that lacks or brings to fulfillment, it perfects the instructions of the Law. In more concrete terms: Jesus in His life, with its obedience to the Father, “accomplished” the requirements demanded from the Law and the Prophets; after all, He observes the Law completely. More meaningfully: through His dead and resurrection Jesus has fulfilled the Law. To us it seems that the emphasis is placed on the behavior of Jesus: with obedience and practice He has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.
Mt 5,19: Jesus who teaches the will of the Father and the fulfillment of the Law.
To the reader the use of the verbs “to act and to teach” doesn’t escape: the precepts of the Law for “who will observe them and will teach them”. Such aspects pick in full load the total image of Jesus in the thought of Mathew: Jesus who teaches the will of God and the achievement of the Law is the obedience son of the Father(3,13-4,11). Here the behavior model that appears to us from this Gospel page. Sure, the emphasis is on the implementation of the Law through obedience, but that does not exclude a fulfillment by means of His instruction. We do not forget that to Mathew it is important the conformity of the practice with the instruction of Jesus: he is master in obedience and the practice. However the praxis as it infers from the warming to watch itself from the pseudo prophets in 7,20 is priority: “From their fruits you will recognize them”. It is interesting to notice that Mathew uses this verb to complete, to fulfill, only for Jesus: only him completes the Law, only His person introduces the characteristics of the fullness. Here roots its authoritative invitation, that becomes a “shipment”, a task to complete the Law in fullness: “I say to you…” (vv. 18.20).
Mt 5,20 Jesus fulfills justice.
Such implementation is distinguished from the ways to comprise it and to live it in the Judaism; in Jesus a new specificity of the justice is introduced: “I say to you in fact: if your justice will not exceed that one of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). The scribes are the theologians and the official interpreters of Writing (5,21-48), the Pharisees, instead, are the actively engaged lays of that time, excessively taken from the practice of mercy (6,1-18). Justice practiced from these two groups is not sufficient, cannot serve from model: it prevents to enter in the kingdom of heaven. The addressees of this warning, in the end, are the disciples; it is addressed to us. Sure the will of God it is drowned to the Law, but he is Jesus who incarnates a new way to put the justice in practice. Jesus asks one “greater justice”, than, what does it refers to? That one of the Scribes and the Pharisees has been aligned to the justice of the men, that one preached from Jesus, instead, demands one justice more substantial, significantly greater to that one practiced from the Judaism. In what consists this “more” our text doesn’t precise immediately, it is necessary to read the continuation of the instruction of Jesus.
Mt 5,20 The radicalism of the justice preached from Jesus.
It is not about to stand out in radical way some commandments of the Law; it is rather primary that the commandment of the love is to the center of these single commandments. The “most quantitative one” guides to strengthen the qualitative aspect in front of God: the commandment of love. The believing community is called to subordinate to the commandment of love, seen as central, the various commandments of Law. There is no tension between the single garnishments and the commandment of love. The instructions of Jesus become binding, online with the instructions from the old testament. For Jesus there is no opposition between the single prescription of the Law and the commandment of love: they are to be considered in a harmonious relationship because in their entirety it is offered the will of God to us (U. Luz).
Mt 5,23-25: How to relate between siblings?
Between the radical requirements inborn in inviting to follow him, Jesus faces the argument of the relations fraternity. It isn’t enough to define all the engagement to the external action of not to kill: “You have heard that it was said from the old ones: You will not kill…” (v. 21); it is essential to break off such narrow norm therefore, but also radical: not to kill! The fifth commandment recommended the respect of life (Es 20,13; Dt 5,17). A deepening or a completely new horizon in the spirit of the Decalogue comes forward now. If it is not concurred to kill a person physically it wants to say that it is allowed to make it in other ways: hatred, the offense, the gossip, the depreciation, the anger, the insult. In the completely new perspective of the Speech of the Mountain, every lack of love towards the next one involves the same guiltiness of the homicide. In fact the temper, the anger, the depreciation are rooted in an undivided heart of love. For Jesus s' it does not break the single Law just by killing, but also with all those actions that they try to destroy or “to make useless” the other.
Jesus doesn’t deal the issue of who is right or who is wrong but who “offends the brother or slanders him in public does not have more space in front of God, because homicide” (Bonhoeffer, Sequela 120). From here the severity that denies value to the offer, the cult, the prayer and the Eucharistic celebration. Who has separated himself from the brother also has separated himself from the relation with God. It needs, then, of a previous reconciliation with the brother that has something against him: Against you, not you against him. Innovation in this word, even if not easy is one to share. To my brother that has “something against me” I answer coming upon him: “first, go to reconcile yourself”, without increasing the distance. It is not alone a question of asking forgiveness: it is urgent to reconstruct the fraternal relations because the good of the brother is my good. Jesus says: “Go ”before”… In the first place, before praying, before donating, before that the other makes the first step, is the movement of my heart, of my body towards the other. Such going towards the other it has the purpose of the resetting of the laceration; a movement that stretches to the reconciliation.
b) Some questions
To put the meditation and practice.
1. In your life, do you always open to Jesus' request for a greater justice? Are you aware that they are not yet in full justice?
2. In the practice of justice, do you match it with the act of God? Do not you know that justice live in the human relations has been given to us? A confirmation you may find it the word of the Apostle Paul: "My righteousness is not having as one arising from the law, but that which comes from faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God based on faith"(Phil 3:9).
3. The expression of Jesus “but I say to you” it is for us an imperative or a theoretical commandment? Are we aware that the more and more great justice is nothing else that the continuous availability to be confronted with the existence of Christ, the only one just (fair)?
4. Our justice is engaged to imitate something of the justice of God, of his gratuity, his creativity? God renders us just, free us from the paralysis of the sin; once rendered free, we mutually transmit this liberation, practicing a justice that it does not judge, but always leaves opened, indeed it creates for the other spaces of a possible return to one authentic life
a) Psalm 119 (1-5, 17-18, 33-34)
The Psalm invites to us to obey to the law of God with all the personal effort. Such possibility is not only an external obligation but a gift granted to the man that put its confidence in God. The practical of the new justice in order to enter in the Kingdom of heaven cannot only come from an individualistic commitment, but from a familiar and constant dialogue with the Word of God.
Happy those whose way is blameless, who walk by the teaching of the LORD.
Happy those who observe God's decrees, who seek the LORD with all their heart.
They do no wrong; they walk in God's ways.
You have given them the command to keep your precepts with care.
May my ways be firm in the observance of your laws!
Be kind to your servant that I may live, that I may keep your word.
Open my eyes to see clearly the wonders of your teachings.
LORD, teach me the way of your laws; I shall observe them with care.
Give me insight to observe your teaching, to keep it with all my heart.
b) Final prayer
The Word that we have listened and meditated on has appeared to us quite strong, oh my Lord, and has put in crisis our attitude: “Go to reconcile yourself!”. In the first place, before being in front of the altar, before introducing our things and donate them to you with love, before that it is the brother to take the initiative, help our heart to complete that movement that recomposes the conflict, the laceration, therefore to recompose the lost harmony.
Saint John Chrysostom invites us with force and firmness: “When you refuse to pardon your enemy you, damage yourself, not him. What you are preparing is a punishment for you in the day of the judgment” (Speeches 2,6). Let yourself be transformed by God’s love of, in order to change your life, to convert yourself, to find again the way of life.