6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (16.02.14)
Reformers come in all shapes and sizes. At one stage we may be drawn to one and repulsed by another but, later, find we have changed allegiances! Recognition of a need for rectification is at the heart of true reform. It can be compared to the difference between ‘true north’ as opposed to the ‘magnetic north’. The deviation between the two is in response the earth’s magnetic field that deviates over time and from place to place because the earth’s magnetic poles are not fixed in relation to the earth’s axis. Innately, we have a desire to know the truth, to know what is right. This unerring yearning drives us, to a greater or lesser degree, throughout our life. At our creation, God implanted us with a bearing of ‘true north’. Later, God’s enemy and ours, Satan, exposed us to a false or ‘magnetic north’. God sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to rescue us from the deception and restore us to a ‘true north’ focus.
If we choose to allow Jesus to fulfil his heavenly Father’s will in us, several factors have to be in place. We need to be aware of deviations that have corrupted our total adherence to God’s will. Then, we must freely choose to take the reformation pathway indicated by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This continuous redirection/renewal of our will – supported by Holy Communion and by the celebration of ‘Reconciliation’ – involves daily prayer and self-denial. We also need to be constantly on our guard. Satan will never tire of attempting to cause us to deviate, little by little, back to his ‘false north’. Our safest place to be for this lifelong battle is to be united with Jesus and within the community of the Church. The more separated we are from communion and the community, the more at risk we are of being picked off, at random, by Satan.
The Matthew (5:17-37) Gospel for this 6th Sunday of the Year presents us with a helpful if challenging checklist. The following are some, but by no means exhaustive, reflections on this Gospel.
- Identifying falsehood, parading as true reformation. In its more crude forms it throws out both ‘baby and bathwater’. More subtle deviations can deceive even the elect! Satan is the master of deception.
- Resisting the temptation to ‘prune’ or to differentiate between God’s Commandments, valuing one Commandment more than another. God doesn’t waste words. Each letter has a value in the final coming together of the world at the end of time.
- According due respect to Church teaching that has the seal of ‘Peter’ attached, on the understanding that the Holy Spirit protects the Church’s authentic voice from falsehood. Jesus’ words: “The gates of hell shall not prevail” are relevant.
- Being aware that the ‘taking of the life of another’ has many forms. Brining about a person’s spiritual death, morally (all forms of abuse, for example) or intellectually (taking another’s good name, sense of self-worth or their capacity to love, instilling hatred for a football team, a religious denomination or a nationality, for example) is as heinous an offence against God as taking a person’s life. Murderers can make use of fear, the Internet, the Board Room, the operating theatre as well as guns, knives and bombs.
- Adultery, in its many forms, is a final, not initial, act in a saga of self-indulgent, infection. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow!
- Let your word be your bond. God’s Word is his bond with us – a living bond in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.
An old adage cautions that it is unwise to wage war simultaneously on many diverse fronts. That being so, we would be advised to direct our efforts, in the sphere of spiritual reformation, to one theatre of operation at a time. A spiritual director would be a source of good advice. We would do well to start where Matthew indicates Jesus as starting – with checking how I value God’s Law and Church law and how I demonstrate this value in word and action.
By the time we have completed the checklist – like the painting of the Forth Bridge – it will be time to start again!