Gospel for February 13, 2011 — Raising the Bar

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...
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The Gospel for Sunday, February 13, 2011 is from Matthew 5:17-37.  In this reading Jesus extends the Mosaic law on topics such as murder, adultery, divorce, and swearing oaths.  He challenges people to work even harder to have a loving relationship with God.  For example, while the Mosaic law said “thou shalt not kill,” Jesus “raises the bar” saying that you should not even have grudges and be hateful towards others.  Jesus desires that we build up a strong faith that can endure through any of life’s challenges.  He encapsulates this attitude in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary, The Carrying of the Cross, as He kept moving towards His crucifixion and eventual resurrection despite the pain and suffering.

Jesus extends the Mosaic law partly because the Jews had grown too complacent following the rules.  They were following each law just for the sake of following them and not so much out of a love of God or to improve themselves.  Like someone who had grown too accustomed to a particular exercise routine, the old laws no longer sufficed for building a strong relationship with God.  As Jesus said later in Matthew 19:8, the laws that Moses gave to the Israelites were necessary because they were not ready to accept the full law as God intended.  In technical terms, the original Mosaic law can be thought of as the “beta” version of the law.  It contained many of the essential features but was not completely finished.  And so Jesus’ extensions completed the law as God always intended.

Whenever we feel like God has put a huge burden on our shoulders, let us remember the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery where Jesus took up His cross.  He suffered greatly and fell repeatedly under the crushing weight of the cross.  And yet, God gave Him the strength to get up and keep moving forward.  And although Jesus prayed that God would spare Him such an ordeal, God did not remove that challenge but instead gave Jesus the strength to endure it.  This rosary mystery should show us that we too can endure and ultimately triumph even when it seems like the challenge is too much.  Moses and Jesus did not give us these moral laws with the intent that we will ultimately fail to follow them.  Quite the opposite.  God gave us these laws because He knew we could handle them and that they would ultimately make us stronger in our faith.

Is living according to God’s laws challenging at times?  You bet!  But progress is never made when the road is easy.  Our relationship with God and each other are strengthened when we take up the challenge to live according to His laws.  Only when we take up our crosses and really make the conscious decision to live for Jesus can we truly say that we have a strong relationship with Him.  This idea of challenging ourselves reminds me of JFK’s famous speech about going to the moon.  We didn’t do it because it was easy, but because it was hard.  The same can be said about forging a relationship with Jesus Christ.  View this short video and replace “go to the moon” with “build a relationship with God” to see what I mean

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