Homily (2) Sixth Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok UdoekpoReadings: Sir 15:15-20; Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Cor 2:6-10 and Matt 5:17-37
Law of Love and Grace in Christ!
Today we celebrate the law of love, grace and freedom in Christ Jesus. We find these laws on the pages of the Bible, both OT and NT, especially in today’s readings. But they were constantly being renewed, updated and reinterpreted to meet the signs of times. Just as the laws of our nations today are constantly scrutinized and reinterpreted. Several OT laws and precepts are reinterpreted Christologically in Christian tradition, as they find their fulfillment in the NT.
In the OT’s Laws and the Prophets, if we may begin from here, we find the three major codes: the covenant Codes (Exod 19–24; 34), the Holiness Codes (Lev 16–27) and the Deuteronomic Codes (Deut 12–16) all which were constantly updated, innovated, renewed and reinterpreted by Israel’s prophets and sages. Their goal was to preach justice, peace, righteousness, faith, orderliness and holiness of life, trustworthiness in God and in the covenant of love he had established with his chosen people, Israel.
In the time of Hellenism, when Israel’s faith was threatened by secular and Greek philosophical thoughts Ben Sira (200-175BCE) insists in today’s first reading that keeping the Torah or the fear of the Lord was the greatest wisdom and the best way to approach the challenges of life. He says, “If you chose you can keep the commandments it will save you…. if you trust in God you too shall live… immense is the Wisdom of the Lord…no one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin” (Sir 15:15-20).
So also with Christ. He did not come to abolish the law but to perfect it, to fulfil it and to teach us new ways of living these laws, presented in today’s gospel (Matt 5:17-37). The difference with Christ is love and compassion which he has profoundly displayed in the course of his ministry. His forgiveness to sinners, prostitutes and adulterers, his healing compassion to the sick, the blind, the deaf, the cripple and lepers and tax collectors. His breaking the barrier of discrimination and racism. He reaching out to the Samaritan and the Syro-Phonician women in John 4 and Mark 7, something unprecedented in the old laws.
In the old Law the sinful high priest sacrificed and atoned for his sins and that of the community, repeatedly(Leviticus 16), but in the new law the sinless Christ sacrifices himself once and for all(Letter to the Hebrews). In the old law we should not kill. But in Christ Jesus no one should ever dare to call others name or abused his or her neighbors. In Christ these are forms of killing. When we abuse, intimidate or call others names, assassinate their characters, especially our children and the weak, it makes them feel they are good for nothing, and dampens their spirit. Even sometimes the pseudo-media propaganda against other nations, especially the poor ones can also be very damaging and killing.
When we deny our poor nations or neighbors’ children access to good education, when we exclude the poor, we have indirectly kill their social, political and economic future (cf. Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis). We have killed their prospect of good jobs. Good jobs comes with good health care insurance, descent homes, good income, clothing, and livelihood that stands to be handed on to future generations.
The law of Christ is the new law of love, trust and freedom, forgiveness and compassion. We should not have to swear before we believe or trust one another. For Christ, our yes should be our yes, and our no our no! This law of trust and confidence in Christ Jesus, is powered by the Holy Spirit and it is written in the hearts of every human being.
Paul says, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heart, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for who those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes, even the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:6-10).
This is the law of love, the law of grace and the law of freedom in Christ Jesus! And blessed are those who follow these laws of Christ!