“Upping the Bar” – Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2023
In our Gospel today, Jesus says I have come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, and so it is important to understand the various types of laws that we find in the Old Testament. Some laws in the Old Testament were CULTURAL laws – laws to help the Israelites form a culture of their own…so we find laws like “you shall not eat shell fish” and “garments must be made of one color”…those laws obviously do not apply to us anymore. The 2nd type of laws that we find in the Old Testament are LITURGICAL laws… “you shall make the Tabernacle this way” and “here are the specific instructions for the altar” and “here’s how many candles you should have” and all of these liturgical laws are fulfilled in the Catholic Church…our parish Church buildings are laid out very similarly to the Liturgical laws laid down first in the Old Testament.
The third type of law, which Jesus mentions in today’s Gospel, are the MORAL laws of the Old Testament. These are the laws that Jesus says He has not come to abolish but to actually raise the bar.
The first example from today’s Gospel is when Jesus says "You have heard that it was said You shall not kill; But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment”. You shall not kill is the 5th commandment, and so Jesus says not only shall you not kill, but you should forgive your family members. A lot of us here today do have family members we don’t like (or worse)…Jesus is saying we need to forgive those family members for OUR sake…we don’t necessarily need to let them back into our lives but we need to forgive from our side…
A second thing that Jesus says in today’s Gosepl: "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.” More and more Catholics are addicted to pornography. If that is you, there is a website in our bulleting about a free video resource put together by former porn addicts and approved by the Catholic Church. To buy the videos is about $400, but you can watch them online for free.
"It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Civil divorce is not a sin, and separating from a spouse is not a sin. It is a sin for Catholics who were married in the Catholic Church to separate from a spouse, and, while the former spouse is still living, marry someone else. I have preached on this recently, and have been blessed to have lots of weddings at both parishes over the last several months, including one this afternoon here at St. Paul’s. If you have ANY questions about marriages, I am happy to sit down and talk with you. The Catholic Church bends over backwards to try and help Catholics fit through this window that Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel…if I can help in any way, please schedule a meeting with me.
A final instance from today’s Gospel…Jesus said "Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, But I say to you, do not swear at all; Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more is from the evil one." I have also preached on this recently as well. Do we tell lies? Some of us may be tempted to think that there are noble lies or white lies, but there is no middle ground. There is THE Truth, that does not changed based on which culture one finds themselves living in, and there is THE Truth that does not change based on circumstances.
All of these instances where Jesus raises the bar of the MORAL laws in the Old Testament Jesus is also giving us the strength, through the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, to clear that higher bar. Let us resolve to cooperate more freely with the Grace that Christ is pouring out on us to clear that higher bar, finding in that striving not just a future bliss in Heaven, but also greater freedom and joy while still on Earth!
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