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Sixth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Sir 15:16-21; 1 Cor 2:6-10; Mt 5:17-37.
1/ Reading I: RSV Sirach 15:16 He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. 17 Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him. 18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; 19 his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man. 20 He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and he has not given anyone permission to sin.
2/ Reading II: RSV 1 Corinthians 2:6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,” 10 God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
I. THEME: Acquire and practice God’s wise ways.
If people humbly learn and observe what happen in the universe, they shall understand that human intellect is limited and weak; can’t be compared with God’s unlimited wisdom. Such a humble attitude shall help people to put their complete trust in God, to do what He teaches and to harvest many good results for their life.
All three readings today emphasize that God’s wisdom exceed human wisdom, and people must learn about God’s wisdom to live according to God’s way. In the first reading, the author of Sirach gives the reason why people must choose to live according to God way: because He holds people’s fate in His hand. In the second reading, St. Paul differentiates between God’s and human wisdom. God gives divine wisdom to those who love and look for it. In the Gospel, after announcing the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12) and giving two examples about salt and light, Jesus enters directly to the center of the Law. He points out misunderstandings about the Law and the life which is merely based on the Law. He also teaches people a way that brings about good results according to the divine law.
1/ Reading I: “Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him.”
1.1/ The importance of God’s wisdom: The Book of Sirach is one of the seven Wisdom Books which aim at teaching people how to live correctly their relationships with God and others. These books often emphasize this basic principle, “Fear God is the beginning of wisdom.”
Why must people learn God’s wisdom? The simple answer is because God’s wisdom exceeds human wisdom. The author of Sirach confirms this in writing, “For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man.”
1.2/ Why must people live according to God’s way? Good results are what people look for when they make their decision. If they want to always have good results, they should live according to God’s way. Living according to human way doesn’t always lead to good result. The author of Sirach describes this as follows, “He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him.”
People have freedom to choose against God’s will, but to do such thing isn’t good for them, both in this life and the next life. Even human freedom is also the gift from God; He gives it to people to help them to choose, not to choose anything they want but the thing that shall bring good results and happiness for them.
God doesn’t predestine for people to do evil act as some say; but He let them choose what bring the best result for them. To do evil is completely on human part, as the author says, “He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and he has not given anyone permission to sin.”
2/ Reading II: “We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.”
2.1/ Differences between divine and human wisdom: St. Paul knew what he preached about Christ exceeds human understanding; especially about the Crucified Christ. The Greek, the Jews and many others refuse to hear this because they think God can’t be suffered and He is so powerful. Paul said in other place, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
He also knew if those who were responsible for Christ’s death knew He is the son of God, they shall never have courage to attend in the plan; and as a result, God’s plan of salvation shall not be fulfilled! This fact proves people aren’t wiser than God; their wisdom is inferior to God’s wisdom. They are executing God’s plan and still think they are doing according to their wisdom.
2.2/ Why doesn’t God reveal His wisdom to all people? Christ continually revealed for people to know He is the son of God, but they still closed their eyes and covered their ears; because partly they relied on their human wisdom, partly they feared of losing their power and material gains. But to those who are humble and love the truth, God bestows His wisdom for people in every generation and at all places to recognize and to believe in Christ. St. Paul confirms this truth as follows, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,” God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
3/ Gospel: Christ’s perfect law
3.1/ Jesus explains the law: First of all, we need to determine what is the law which Jesus mentioned in this passage. According to the Hebrew tradition, there are four opinions: first, the Ten Commandments; second, the Pentateuch, the five first Books of the Old Testament; third, the Law and the Prophetic Books; and lastly, not only all of these three but also the law according to their tradition, such as: washing of their hands and purified law which the Pharisees used to fight against Jesus.
Certainly, Jesus didn’t include human laws because they are imperfect and changeable. He also excludes the explanation of the law according to human understanding because it is sometimes too far away from the basic principle and becomes a heavy burden for people; however, the prophetic announces of the Messiah’s coming are fulfilled by Christ. The Ten Commandments are what Jesus wanted to imply here because they come directly from God and unchangeable. There are three applications of the law which Jesus wants to mention here:
(1) Practicing the law, not only knowing the law: Many think they can become righteous by knowing the law or Christ. Jesus emphasizes on practicing the law and on what he teaches. Knowing the law and not practicing it bring no profit for people; Satan and his companions know the law and about Jesus more than people. Jesus stresses on the education to do what the law teaches, “but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
(2) Can’t insult or be angered with others: Some of us only pay attention to the sin of murder, but have little regard for the sin of insulting and reviling others. God, of course, doesn’t condemn the natural anger when others do wrong things to us; but we can’t overact to the point of insulting and reviling of others.
(3) To live at peace with others: The Jewish tradition is familiar with Jesus’ teaching because in the O.T., sin can be only forgiven after people satisfy all of these three conditions: to reconcile with others, to confess their sin and to offer sacrifice. So, sin can’t be forgiven even people confessed their sin and offered sacrifice. In the N.T., Jesus teaches the same, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24). Jesus also gives us a wise teaching which is to always live at peace with others and find a way to settle down our conflicts; don’t make a big deal out of little things, solve whatever we can settle, don’t take other to court lest both have to suffer.
3.2/ Live according to the truth: “Let what you say be simply `Yes’ or `No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
The basic moral principle of our life is to live according to the truth, and absolutely not according to falsity. Though the truth shall hurt, we still must speak, live and witness for the truth. It isn’t easy for us to live according to the truth because it demands sacrifices and even death to witness for the truth. No one can say that he always lives according to the truth, but the important thing is if we lived according to falsity out of weakness, we must have courage to recognize and to confess that we didn’t live according to what God teaches us. Don’t use all false arguments to protect ourselves and to converse the falsity to the truth. In today passage, Jesus gives us four applications of living according to the truth.
(1) Adultery: The truth isn’t only be expressed in deeds but also in thoughts. We need to differentiate between natural and intentional desire. If a man looks at a woman with a natural desire and let it go away; this isn’t a sin. What Jesus wants to emphasize here is the intentional desire for one’s satisfaction. If we understand so, what we need to avoid, not only real people but also people in movies, pictures and internet for sexual satisfaction. When one is doing so, he also desires their body unconsciously.
Jesus’ teaching, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” can’t be understood literally, even some people did so. With all of human weaknesses, if one keeps doing so, he shall have nothing to cut or to throw away! What Jesus wants to emphasize here is the seriousness of sin. We must try our best not to become a slave for sins because they are reasons for us to be confined in hell.
(2) Divorce: The basic thing is to be loyal with our vows to God and others. The marriage covenant can never be abolished because of God’s teaching, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt 19:6). People have hundred reasons to divorce; but the basic thing is people aren’t sincere with God and others from the beginning. The Church grants a divorce only due to the weakness of a person who can’t live according to the truth; the Church can never nullify the marriage which God certified.
(3) Swearing: The basic principle is to live according to the truth. If a person always does that, swearing isn’t necessary. People can believe the word of such person without the need of swearing; but if a person didn’t live according to the truth, no matter how much he swears, nothing can guarantee his promise. In history, there are some tribes who absolutely prohibit swearing, such as: the Essenes and Quakers. Jesus points outs some human cunning in not to keep what they swore, and he teaches, “Do not swear!”
(4) Living according to falsity is living the devil’s way: God’s word is the truth. Christ prays to his Father so that He consecrates his disciples in the truth (Jn 17:19). The purpose for this consecration is because his disciples are still living in the world under the devil’s influences. God’s word and the truth can’t be separated; people live according to the falsity might be because they don’t know the truth. If a person always learns, meditates and holds firm to God’s word, it is hard for the devil to tempt that person to live according to his way.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to learn Scripture to live according to God’s wise way. If we do that, we shall avoid many sufferings and live happily in this world.
– God’s thoughts and ways sometimes are totally opposite with our thought and ways. We need to pray and to ask for the Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom to help us when we must face this confrontation.
– We shouldn’t stop at surface understanding, but to dig deep to find the real meaning of God’s message in the Scripture.