The wisdom of Sirach places a radical choice before us; it is a choice between life and death. The choice in favor of the law will lead to life, and rejection of the law brings along with it death. The authors of the Book of Wisdom remind us that there is always complete freedom to accept or reject it. It is important to remember that God does not constrain or force the will of anyone, God prizes too highly the freedom He has given us and sin never will proceed from God’s will, it is a consequence of human choice. God knows our hearts and our minds, yet our desires and our thoughts, however, do at times deviate from God’s will.
The lessons of today’s readings are multiple. There is continuity between the two laws, that of Moses and that of Jesus. When Paul writes to the Corinthians, he is well aware that their sophistication is no match for “the deep things of God.” He urges, rather, the wisdom of the spiritually mature. It does take some level of maturity to recognize that the Sermon on the Mount is not there to cast us down, to be meant only as a list of things not to do.
While Jesus’ intention is not to abolish the old law, he promises to fulfill or realize the law in a new way. Jesus reveals all injustice in our human frailty, yet is firm in what He expects from those who choose to follow him. In matters of discipleship Jesus does not allow ifs, ands, or buts. He tells us to “let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything beyond that is from the evil one.” To read the Sermon on the Mount we should come away being challenged to the point of striving to make corrections in our own behaviors.
The Sermon on the Mount is our invitation to holiness. It hopefully resonates with our deepest sense of compassion in ways of loving ourselves and neighbor as a response to our most gracious God who has given us the true freedom to learn to love. Just imagine how different would our Eucharist be if we took Jesus seriously? The resentments we hold against others would have to dissolve before we approach the altar, lest we receive the sacrament unworthily. Perhaps that is why our Communion is aptly prefaced by the sign of peace. Just as we ask God, “look not on our sins, but on the faith of your church,” so also, we who have sinned against each other must see with the eyes of faith and forgive.
Peace and all good.