Word Alive by Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD
February 16, 2020 / 6th Sunday Sunday in Ordinary Time A
A newly-installed bishop, who is a stickler of church rules, tells his clergy on their first meeting: “Henceforth this diocese will be ruled by Canon Law.”
An old priest, who is hard of hearing leans to a young priest sitting beside him, asks, “What did he say?”
The young cleric replies within earshot, “The bishop says, ‘Henceforth this diocese will be RUINED by the Canon Law.”
Laws and rules are important but when imposed rigidly, they do not only become burdensome but also ruin the real spirit of the law.
Contrary to the onerous interpretations imposed by the established religious leaders (Pharisees), Jesus went beyond the letter of the law, exposing the underlying purpose and the MOTIVE for keeping it.
For instance, the scribes and Pharisees during Christ’s time were unbending in observing the law of the Sabbath. Any kind of activity was forbidden. But the Lord opposed this by healing the sick or doing good works, saying “the Sabbath is made for men and not men for the Sabbath.”
In short, the Lord allowed exceptions to the law.
The scribes and Pharisees during Christ’s time are not any different from some Christians today.
For instance, a good number of people attend Sunday Mass for fear of committing mortal sin and go to hell if they die unrepented. While there’s some truth to that, it is not absolute. It’s looking at it legalistically.
The real spirit or true motive behind Mass going should be to recognize our dependence on God whom we honor, respect, love and offer our petitions.
Moreover, our worship of God is pleasing if it overflows into love for our fellowmen. To express our love for God at Mass or our devotions, but we despise, cheat or refuse to forgive our fellowmen, is a contradiction.
There’s a wealthy matron who has many workers in her various companies. She goes to Mass every day and prides of her numerous religious images at home. But here’s the rub: The employees had been groaning over their low salaries. They grumble and remark, “Dasal ng dasal, masama naman ang asal.”(She’s always praying but her conduct is bad).
In addition, Christ is saying that people’s attitudes and motives must change, thus bring about a real fulfillment of the law.
For instance, Christ affirms “You have heard the commandment, ‘You shall not commit murder’… What I say to you is: Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Mt 5,21).
Put differently, not only a crime of violence, like murder, is forbidden, but even the uncontrolled anger, lingering hatred, and revenge that are the root causes of the criminal act.
Not only is the act of adultery to be avoided, Jesus likewise declares, but even lustful thoughts that are the beginnings of adultery.
ASK YOURSELF: Are you prayerful and strict in observing church laws but harsh and unjust to your workers? We may condemn the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy but do I behave like them?
Jesus warns us, “Unless your justice exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 5,20).
LAUGH WITH GOD
Jew: “ Did you know the Bible says bigamy is all right?” Christian: “No, I believe the Bible is against bigamy.” Jew: “But don’t you recall all those Old Testament kings had lots of wives like Solomon?”
Christian: “Yes. But then Jesus Christ came along and told us no man can serve two masters.”
Christian: “And did you know the punishment for bigamy?” “Not only you’ll have two masters but two mothers-in-law!” (biyenan).
Parish priest to a parishioner: “Romy, I’ve not seen you in church for a long time. What happened?
Reply: “Father, I’m turned off by so many hypocrites there.” Parish priest: “Romy, don’t worry. There’s still a place for one more.”