The readings from yesterday give us a stark choice: Each person has before him life and death, good and evil, light or darkness. “To whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand…. Whichever he chooses shall be given him…. No one does [God] command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin.”
Here we think of the many even in our own times who commit great sins in God’s name, whether it be murder or some form of destruction or even subjugating a spouse or a child. “To none does He give license to sin.”
St. Paul tells us in the second reading from First Corinthians that with those who choose life, the good, and the light, “God has prepared” something spectacular “for those who love Him.” How do we love Him? By choosing life, the good, and the light. In other words by loving Him more than we love the sin that is so attractive but yet is so destructive.
And so we come then to the Gospel, which, as St. Paul is “not a wisdom of this age.”
A lot of time we hear scholars and scriptural critics present a contrast between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God, as if God can be divided, as if God changes. But He is immutable. That means He does not change.
And Jesus makes this very clear. “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill” it. Furthermore, “until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest [accent] of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place…. Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Next Our Savior goes on to show that it’s not just what’s on the face of the Commandments but at their heart to which we have to pay attention.
So take, for instance, the Fifth Commandment, which tell us to not kill [according to Dennis Prager, the actual Hebrew translates as “murder”]. Pretty basic, right?
But when we lash out at someone in anger, when we gossip about someone’s sins, when we call someone a fool, an idiot, stupid, an imbecile, we murder them. We kill a part of them, and we murder their good name (cf. Matt 5:21-22).
I might never touch another woman. But if I look at a woman and think that I want to take her then and there, or if I picture myself with her, if I undress her with my eyes, don’t I have “lust in the heart”?
A lot of couples think that pornography “spices up” their love life. Wrong. It introduces lust and adultery into the altar of their sacrament, the marriage bed, the marital act. It thus is driving a wedge between them when they should be fully, fruitfully, totally, and faithfully yoked to one another.
Next we see Jesus discuss divorce and remarriage. I am going through a divorce, but unless the Church declares that I have divorced my wife because “the marriage is unlawful” [the sense in which she interprets the Greek word Jesus uses, porneia, which most translations render as “unchastity” or “adultery”), then I will never marry again. Because I do not want to make myself, my wife, or whoever I marry in the future “commit adultery,” as the Lord says.
What about other commandments? Do we work on the Sabbath? When God gives this commandment, to not work on the Sabbath, to keep it holy and as a day of rest, He tells people, “Don’t even start a fire” on that day. Later, in the Book of Numbers, the people find a man outside the camp of the Israelites, merely gathering wood. God tells Moses to have the man stoned to death. Keeping the Sabbath is not a light thing. It is anything but a light thing.
Do we steal? Maybe we don’t pocket things in a store and walk out the door with them. But do we “sample” fruit or nuts sold by the pound? For then the cashier can’t ring them up, and we have received goods for which we have not paid? Do we take from work things paid for by our employer for which we have not have repaid him or her for our own personal use? Do we access movies for free on the Internet that are not put up by the producer for that purpose? If so, how are we any different than someone who buys a pirated copy of a DVD from a vendor on the street or the person who pirates that DVD in the first place?
As Our Lord tells us, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:19, NAB).
We have before us life and death, good and evil, lightness and darkness. Which shall we choose?