Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Sermon on the Mount. Ca. 1440-1445. Fresco.

In our Church today we hear much more about legalism and rigidity and this can be confusing. The Gospel for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 5: 17-37) offers us some important insights regarding this matter.

Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” This means that Jesus did believe in the importance of the law; however, he wanted to change people’s attitude. Legalism is rooted in a “least I can do” mentality. As long as I follow the commandments then I am alright with God.

In the Gospel Jesus gives examples of how we must go beyond the law and do the greater rather than the least. Here he addresses something far greater than legalism; he was fighting a minimalist attitude toward the law and life, “I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The way we can develop this ‘righteous attitude’ can be found in the Second Reading (1Corinthians 2:6-10).

St. Paul states, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” Our motivation for following God’s law is not simply obligation, it is love! Jesus often challenges the scribes and the Pharisees because they forgot about love. “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”