Francis of Assisi
556 South Jersey Street;
Denver, CO 80224
National Catholic Church (PNCC)
St. Francis of Assisi Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) @2008
This is the 6th Sunday in ordinary time and we’re continuing in St. Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount.
In today's section, we find Jesus quoting some of the Ten Commandments, given by God to Moses, and adding to them. This he does on his own authority. He uses the term: "I say to you," In using this term, he’s putting himself on a level with God, which, as he was God, he could do. The scribes and Pharisees were most rigorous in their external observance of the Law of Moses, but their observance of the law lacked true sincerity of heart, and wasn’t done out of charity. They sought the praise of their fellowmen, and in doing so they negated all their good actions (see the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in the temple, Lk. 18: 10 14). Jesus tells his disciples and followers that their observance, their religion, must be better than that they must obey God's commands out of love and true sincerity, or they’ll not be worthy of heaven.
Jesus not only confirms this commandment but adds to it. Murder begins in the mind. Anger unchecked, or worse still, nourished with brooding over real or imaginary injuries, can and often does lead to murder. Again Jesus stresses the need for internal self restraint. Lustful thoughts, looks and desires, will not always lead to an external act, but they’re already sinful in themselves and are conducive to the external act. Remember Jimmy Carter lusting in his heart. Calling God as a witness that what you say is true, when it’s not, or as a guarantor of a false promise or vow, is a direct, and serious, insult to God who is truth and justice. Jesus demands more. We should be so truthful,
and so faithful in keeping our promises, that to swear by God shouldn’t be necessary. A yes or a no, a simple promise, should be enough if you are honest with God, with your neighbor, and with your own conscience.
In Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, There are various sayings of Jesus, actually spoken on different occasions. Matthew, in his systematic manner, has gathered these sayings into one continuous discourse. Doing this makes it easier for his readers, who were Jewish converts, to grasp the new order of salvation as inaugurated by Jesus. They knew the Ten Commandments, but they knew them as their rabbis had taught them. Their rabbis, for the most part Pharisees, stressed the letter of the law and on its external observance. Jesus’ opening statement, that the attitude of his followers toward the commandments (and other precepts of the law) must be different, and superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees.
This statement clearly indicates how Christianity must differ from, and supersede, Judaism. Jesus isn’t abolishing the Ten Commandments, but he is demanding of his followers a more perfect, a more sincere, fulfillment of them.
The whole moral value of any legal observance (the Mosaic law included), comes from the interior disposition of the person who observes or keeps the law. No man serves or honors God by any exterior acts, unless these acts proceed from an intention and a will to honor and please God. This is the charter, the constitution, of the new law, Christianity. The old law isn’t abolished, but deepened and given a new life. Avoiding murder therefore is not enough; the true Christian must remove any inclination to murder by building up true, brotherly love for all men in his heart. We must not only not injure our neighbor or fellowman in his person, or in his character, but we must be ever ready to help him and prevent injury to him, whenever and wherever we can. We must not only not commit adultery, but must also develop a Christian respect and esteem for purity, the virtue that will preserve us not only from adultery but also from thoughts of adultery, or any other abuse of our sexual gifts given us by God for his sublime purpose. We must be truthful always, and a person of our word. This virtue isn’t only necessary for our salvation, but is the basis of rational intercourse between people in a civilized society.
While our civil courts still deem it necessary to impose oaths on contestants and witnesses (since they have, unfortunately, to take account of the liars and deceivers who still are a menace to society), the truthful person needn’t be afraid of insulting or dishonoring God by calling him as his guarantor, if asked to do so. True and loyal service to God therefore begins in the heart, and has its value from this interior disposition. Keeping the Ten Commandments is our way of proving to God that we’re grateful, obedient and loyal to him who gave us all we have and who has promised us future gifts infinitely greater still. And just as our love for God is proved by our true love for our neighbor, so the last seven of the commandments impose on us obligations regarding our neighbor. It’s only by fulfilling these seven that we can fulfill the first three which govern our relations with God.
This truth is expressed by our Lord in the words: If you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there . . . first be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.