6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A - 12/2/2023 - Gospel: Mt 5:17-37
Spirit of The Law
Despite their great effort with all honesty and dedication in applying the Law recorded in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, the Scribes, and Pharisees had failed to capture the spirit of the Law. Their interpretation was strong on human external cleanliness; and weak on internal purification of a person's mind and heart. The requirement to wash cups and plates and hands and the non-essential things was time consuming. Their strict observation placed stress and pressure on many because they had less time for vital things, such as time to pray and care for their loved ones. Jesus says that those kind of external, observation requirements doesn't reflect the heart of the Law. The primary purpose of the Law is for internal cleanliness of mind and heart, and that is the true form of worshipping God. The Scribes and Pharisees failed to understand this. It is very clear that human wisdom is very superficial. We are capable of grasping most matters that belong to our senses, but struggle hard to tackle the spiritual world. Jesus corrects the external cleanliness, telling people to pay more attention to internal purification; because external cleanliness would bring little benefit to the internal life. It is not external, but the internal cleanliness, that makes a spiritual life healthy. This teaching made the Scribes and Pharisees excuse Jesus for abolishing the traditions of the elders. Jesus' new teaching made people praise him that

'He taught them with authority'. Mt 7,29.

While his opponents accused him of abolishing the traditions of the elders. In responding to their criticism, Jesus told his disciples:

'I have come not to abolish them but to complete them' v.17.

Jesus brings freshness and newness to the Decalogue. He asks the people to observe the spirit of the law, which is the heart of his teaching. To make his teaching clearer, Jesus tells them

'I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven' Mt. 5,20.

Jesus told his disciples that they must learn from him, because observing the external cleanliness of the Law is the way of the Scribes and Pharisees. His way is not to observe the Law in its appearance, but to capture its spirit, and that is the right way to uphold the Law. To make his teaching clearer, Jesus told them to avoid anger; do not harbour resentment; instead of vengeance, be reconciled. Reconciliation must happen even before offering to God. Mt 5,23-24. This new teaching is not simply to stop an evil act; but to uproot the cause of evil which anchors in a person's heart. When a heart is purified by God's love; it stops all evil intentions. Jesus told his disciples that sin of the flesh is committed as soon as one desires to have it in one's heart. By desire alone, sin has already been committed in one's heart, whether that person is actually carrying it out or refraining it.

People felt that His teaching freed them from external observation burden. They would have more time for reflection and self-examination of their daily conduct. By doing self-examination, their hearts become their own judge. People can trick others but wouldn't be able to deceive themselves because we all know our hearts well. Jesus tells us that we are the judge of our own thoughts and actions. He told them to honour oaths in marriage and be truthful to themselves. Your thoughts must consist of your actions, and that makes you true to yourself. Regardless of gender, honour oaths in marriage is not simply brought peace to your family, but also promote the equality and dignity of a human person.

Jesus' teaching demands a change of one's mind and heart toward God. When a person's heart belongs to God that person is led by the spirit, and they are the true worshipper. They worship God in truth and spirit.