Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 12 February 2023

Behind the Prohibitions.

Today in the Gospel the statements of Jesus are not new law to be laid down on top of, or in place of the old law, but as an ethical statement that goes beyond the boundaries set by humanity. Jesus is reflecting the divine intention for us all, an intention that requires of the believer, not just the existence of humanity’s experience, but of a faith life that is caught up in something far greater than “the world”. Rather we identify and behave as citizens of the Kingdom of God. This citizenship acknowledges the inbreaking of God’s rule and the role of Jesus as God’s gracious Messiah.

The call to a “faith life” confronts us with the distinct character of life in God’s new age. As Jesus quotes from the ten commandments, in each case he presses beyond the expressed statement of the law to the deeper question and the listener is invited to do the same.

In the quoted commandment about adultery, Jesus pushes beyond it to challenge those who treat others as sexual objects, calling us to balanced and wholesome relationships. With divorce, the effect of the prohibition is the affirmation of the sanctity of marriage and the encouragement of reconciled relationships. With oaths, the text call for a simple unabashed honesty in the full range of human relationships. One’s “yes” is to mean “yes” and one’s “no” to mean “no”. Truthfulness is the characteristic of the life lived under the rule of God.

In each of these scenarios Jesus is calling for an entirely new way of viewing human relationships. Behind the prohibitions lies the vision of a restored humanity.

Fr Stephen Berecz

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