Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
13 July 2014
“For I say to you that unless your justice exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 5:20
In his book of meditations, Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of St. Magdalene identifies today’s liturgy as “the Sunday of Fraternal Charity, a virtue so necessary to preserve proper relations with our neighbour.” (p. 669) Likewise Jesus’ words in the Gospel (Mt. 5:20-24) state that our justice (fraternal charity) must be greater than that of the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees or else we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. We can see that Jesus not only warns us against the grave sin of murder, but also against sins against charity such as anger and hatred: “You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Thou shalt not kill’; and that whoever shall kill shall be liable to the judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca’ (empty-headed) shall be liable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says, ‘Thou fool!’ shall be liable to the fire of Gehenna.” Mt. 5: 21-22 We are also told not to keep hatred or grudges within us but rather to be reconciled with our brother before we offer our gifts at the altar. St. Peter in today’s Epistle (I Pt. 3:8-15) also reminds us that we must be charitable to our brothers: “...be all like-minded, compassionate, lovers of the brethren, merciful, humble; not rendering evil for evil, or abuse for abuse, but contrariwise, blessing; for unto this were you called that you might inherit a blessing.” I Pt. 3:8-9 Jesus’ message is essentially one of charity as St. John tells us: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. And everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.” I Jn. 4:7-8
The Father’s House of “Living Stones”
Dom Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year Vol. 11--Time After Pentecost Book II comments on the mystical meaning of today’s Epistle. “The Gospel of last Sunday showed us the apostles gathering into their net the mystic fish, which represented the chosen souls called into the union of the Church. To-day we must look upon the faithful as the living stones of which that Church is built; for we are listening to the words of Peter, who is the rock and the foundation-stone. The Son of God came down from heaven for no other purpose than to found on earth a glorious city, in which God Himself might delight to dwell (cf. Apoc. 21:2-3 “And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling of God with men and he will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’): He came, that He might build for His Father a temple of matchless beauty, where praise and love, ceaselessly sounding from the very stones which form its walls, might worthily proclaim it to be the sanctuary of the great sacrifices. He became Himself the foundation of the thrice holy structure wherein was to burn the eternal holocaust (cf. I Pet. 2:4-7 ‘Draw near to him a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and honoured by God. Be you yourselves as living stones built thereon into spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ 4-5). He communicated this character of foundation of the new temple Simon, His vicar; and by giving him the name of Peter or rock He as good as told all future generations, what was the one aim of all His divine labours, viz, to build, here on earth, a temple worthy of His eternal Father. ….Union of true charity, concord, and peace, which must, at every cost, be kept up as the condition for their being happy both now and for ever—such is the substances of the instruction addressed by Simon, now Peter, to those other chosen stones, which rest upon him, and constitute that august temple to be presented by the Son of Man to the glory of the Most High. Do not the solidity and duration of even earth’s palaces depend on the degree of union between the materials used in their structure? …What then, will be the cause of the stability, what the cement which is to hold together the house prepared for God to dwell in, which, when all else has crumbled into change, is to ever the same? And that dwelling is the Church; the dwelling of the adorable Trinity, up to whose throne the fragrance which exhales from her divine Spouse will ascend for all eternity.
The Holy Spirit Infuses Charity into the Church
“Here again it is the Holy Spirit who must explain to us the mystery of this union, which makes up the holy city (cf. Ps. 121:3), and which is to last as long as eternity itself. The charity which is poured forth into our hearts at the moment of our Baptism is an emanation of the very love that reigns in the bosom of the blessed Trinity; for the workings of the holy Spirit in the saints have this for their aim: to make them enter into a participation in the divine energies. Having become the life of the regenerate soul, the divine fire penetrates her whole being with God, and communicates, to her created and finite love, the direction and the power of the flame that is everlasting and divine. So that, henceforward, the Christian must love as God loves; his charity is then only what it should be, when it takes in everything God loves. Now, such ineffable friendship established by the supernatural order between God and His intellectual creatures, that He vouchsafes to love them with the love wherwith He loves Himself; and therefore, our charity should include and embrace, not only God Himself, but moreover, all those beings whom He has called to share, if they will, in His own infinite happiness. This will give us to understand the grandeur and incomparable power of the union, in which the Holy Ghost has established the Church. We are not surprised that the bonds should be stronger than death, and its cohesion be proof against all the power of hell (cf. Cant. 8:6); for the cement, which joins the living stones of its walls together, partakes of the strength of God Himself, and imitates the stability of His eternal love…
The Necessity for Mutual Love
“But let us also understand the importance and the necessity of mutual union for all Christians. There must be among them that love of brotherhood which is so frequently and so strongly recommended by the apostles, the co-operators of the Spirit in the building up of the Church. The keeping aloof from schism and heresy… the repression of hatred and jealousy; no, these are not enough to make us become useful members of the Church of Christ. We must, moreover, have a charity which is effective, and devoted, and persevering and brings all souls and hearts into true union and harmony; a charity, which, to be worthy of the name, must be warm-hearted and generous, for it must make us see God in our fellow-men, and that will bring us to look upon their happiness or misfortunes as though they were our own. We must have none of that phlegmatic egotism which finds satisfaction in never putting itself out of the way for anybody. Hateful as such a temperament is, it is far from being a rare one. It holds this peculiar view about charity, that the best way of observing it is to have a complete indifference for those who live with us! Souls of this stamp, it is evident, are not bedded in the divine cement; you could never make them part of the holy structure; the heavenly builder is compelled to reject them as unfit, …When it is too late, they will open their eyes, and understand that charity is one; so that, he does not love God who does not love his neighbour (cf. I Jn. 4:21 ‘And this commandment we have from him that he who loves God should love his brother also.’), and he who does not love, abideth in death ( I Jn. 3:14 ‘We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.’). Let us, therefore, as St. John counsels us, measure the perfection of our love for God by the love we have for our neighbours: then only shall we be enabled to enjoy the unspeakable mysteries of divine union with Him, who only unites Himself with His elect, in order to make both them and Himself one magnificent temple to the glory of His Father.” Gueranger, p. 136-140
God’s Union with His Beloved Bride, the Church
In the Gospel, Dom Gueranger shows how the Church, the temple of God on earth, continues its growth in divine love. “…and yet, the five weeks we have had since Pentecost have shown us how gloriously the Church has been begun on Mount Sion. There, fronting the temple of the restricted and imperfect covenant of Sinai, the holy Spirit has founded the Church, making her the place where all nations of earth are to meet in gladness (cf. Ps. 47:3); she is the city of the great King, where all men shall henceforth live in the knowledge of God (cf. Jer. 31:34); and, from the very first moment of her existence, she has been showing herself to us as the abode where Eternal Wisdom has made it His delight to dwell ( Prov. 8:31; Prov. 9:1); she has proved herself to be the true Holy of holies, wherein God and we are to be brought into union.
The New Law of Love Overcomes Fear and Bondage
“The law of fear and bondage (cf. Rom. 8:15) is, therefore, for ever abrogated by the law of love. A lingering remnant of regard for the once approved institution, which was the depository of divine revelations (cf. Rom. 3:2), permits the first generation of Jewish converts to observe, if it so please them, the practices of their forefathers (circumcision); but the permission is to cease with the temple, whose approaching destruction is to bury the Synagogue for ever. And even now, before that period of destruction, the prescriptions of the Mosaic law are insufficient to justify the sons of Jacob before God. … The very commandments of the Decalogue -— those necessary commandments, which belong to all times and can never undergo change, because they pertain to the essence of the ties existing between creatures and their Creator—even these holy commandment have acquired such additional splendour from the teachings of Jesus, the Sun of all justice, that man’s conscience now finds in them an almost immeasurable increase of moral responsibility and loveliness.
Human Corruption of the Law
“But man’s reason having become greatly obscured by the fall, his soul had no longer the full and clear notion it previously had of the moral obligations resulting from his nature as man. His will, too, was a sufferer by the same fall: it became depraved; it used the original weakness of reason as an excuse for its own malice; and that malice did but thicken the darkness which covered its own excesses. Voluntary or heedless victims of error, the Gentiles were seen adapting their conduct to false maxims, which were, at times, contrary to the first principles of morality, that we who enjoy the blessings of faith can scarcely believe that men could ever be so wicked. Even the descendants of the Patriarchs though singularly preserved through benediction given by God to their fathers, were by no means free from the general corruption…” Gueranger, p. 143.
Interior Sins Denounced by Jesus
Don Gueranger contrasts the exterior and interior sins to show the superiority of the New Covenant: “… every judgment passed by men, be their authority never so imposing, can only deal with exterior facts: so that Moses, in the legislative code he had drawn up, assigned no penalty for interior sins. These, however grievous they be may be, are essentially beyond the appreciations and cognizance of society and the human powers governing it. Even now, under the new Law, the Church does not inflict her censures on interior faults, unless they be made manifest by some act which comes under the senses; just as Moses had done, who, whilst acknowledging the culpability of criminal thoughts or desires, yet left to God’s judgment what He alone can know….According to the moral theology of those Hebrew doctors, conscience meant only what the tribunal of public justice issued as its decisions; the obligations of the interior tribunal of a man’s conscience were to be restricted to the rules followed by the assize-courts. The result of such teaching soon showed itself: the only thing people need care for was what was seen by men; if the fault were not one that human eyes could judge of, you were not to trouble about it. The Gospel is filled with the woes uttered by our Lord against blind guides, who taught the souls they professed to direct how best to smother law and justice and love under the outward cover of the letter. Jesus never lost an opportunity in denouncing, and castigating, and holding up to execrations, those hypocritical scribes and Pharisees who took such pain to be ever cleaning the outside of the dish, but within were full of impurity, and murder and rapine (cf. Mt. 22).” Gueranger, p. 144-5
Jesus Came to Restore the Original Law of Justice and Charity
Don Gueranger points out how Jesus came to earth to restore the original principles of justice.
“The divine Word, who had come down from heaven to sanctify men in truth, that is in Himself (cf. Jn. 1&:17, 19), had to make this His first care; to restore what time had tarnished, to restore all the original brightness to the changeless principles of justice and right, which rest in Him as in their centre. No sooner had He called the disciples around Him and chosen twelve out of their number as apostles, than He began, with all possible solemnity, His divine work of moral restoration. The passage from the Sermon on the Mount, which the Church has selected for the Gospel of this fifth Sunday, follows immediately after His declaring that he had come, not to find fault with, or to destroy the Law (cf. Mt. 5:17) but to restore it to its true meaning of which the scribes had deprived it…. In the few lines put before us to-day by the Church, Our Lord tells us not to make human tribunals the standard of the justice needed for the entering into the kingdom of heaven. The Jewish law brought a man who was guilty of murder before the criminal court of judgment; and He, the master and author of the law, declares to us, that anger, which is the first step leading to murder, even though it lurk in the deepest recesses of the conscience, may bring death to the soul; and thus really incur, in the spiritual order, the capital punishment which human tribunals reserve to actual murder. If, without going so far as to strike the offender, our anger should vent itself in insulting language, such as worthless wretch (which in Syriac is Raca) the sin becomes so serious that, weighed in the balance of its real guilt as known by God, it would be a case, not of the ordinary criminal jurisdiction, but of the highest council of the nation. If the angry man pass from insulting to injurious language, there is no human tribunal which, be it as severe as it can be in its verdict, can give us an idea of the enormity of the sin committed. But the authority of the sovereign Judge is not, like that of a human magistrate, confined within certain limits; when fraternal charity is outraged, there is an avenger who will demand justice beyond the grave. Such is the importance of holy charity, which demands should unite all men together! And so directly opposed to God’s design is the sin, which, in whatever degree, endangers or troubles the union of the living stones of the temple, which has to be built up in concord and love here below, to the glory of the undivided and tranquil Trinity.” Gueranger, p. 146-7
The Precept of Absolute Reconciliation
In the passage right before today’s Gospel, Jesus told the Pharisees: “Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Mt. 5:17 Jesus is teaching the true meaning of the Mosaic Law (The Ten Commandments) when He reminds them that they must have pure hearts and cannot have any hatred or anger for their neighbour. If they do, they must come to peace with him. In today’s Gospel Jesus also demands reconciliation: “Therefore, if thou art offering thy gift at the altar and there rememberest that thy brother has anything against thee, leave thy gift before the altar and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and them come and offer thy gift.” Mt. 5:23- 24 Cornelius a Lapide comments on the meaning of this passage: “Therefore, this is a precept, both of law and of the natural law, or better, a supernatural precept connatural with grace. For this is the order of virtues, that reconciliation, peace, and unity precede religion and an act of Sacrifice, so as to dispose the soul to this; hence, this precept obliged even the Jews under the old law. Here, nevertheless, it is sanctioned more strictly by Christ, because by the Incarnation of the Word He has, in the very closest manner, united us all to Himself and to one another. This greater union, which we have, therefore, through Christ, demands greater love and unity among Christian brethren: so He has said, ‘A new commandment give I unto you, that you love one another.’ Jn. 13:34 Also because the Sacrifice of the Eucharist is holier than the ancient sacrifices. It is the gathering together and the communion of the Body, of which we all partake; and thereby we are all mutually united to Christ and one another. Hence, it is called ‘Communion,’ that is, the common union of all. Since, therefore, the Eucharist is a sacrifice, as well as a sacrament and profession of mutual union and peace, it is necessary that all discord should be done away with, and that those who have offended should reconcile themselves to those whom they have offended before this Sacred Synaxis, lest they be found liars. For in truth he is a liar who takes this Sacrament of Union, i.e. the Eucharist, with his neighbour, and is not in union with, but bears a grudge or rancour against him in his heart. St. Augustine says it beautifully (serm. 16 de Verbis Domini), ‘The Lord is seeking you more than a gift; you are bringing your gift yet you are not God’s gift. Christ seeks the one whom He has redeemed by His Blood more than what you have procured in your barn.’” The Commentary of Cornelius a’ Lapide: St. Matthew’s Gospel, Vol. 1, p. 253-4
Pastoral Letter on the “Assisted Dying Bill” from Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth.
In his Pastoral Letter of 12th/13th July 2014, Bishop Mark O’Toole reminds us of the extreme importance of this bill when he writes: “Our faith teaches us that all human life is sacred. Respecting life means that every person must be valued for as long as they live… The Catechism of the Catholic Church… says: ‘It is God who remains the sovereign master of life. We are stewards, not owners of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
“The new bill marks a very serious moment for our country. It raises serious questions about what sort of society we want to be. Especially of concern is whether we will continue to promote a proper care of the dying, and of those who are vulnerable through disability or age.”
Let us do all that we can to follow the teaching of our bishop. Let us pray for our country that it will respect life from the cradle to the grave. Let us do all that we can in the political and social area to remind people that life is sacred and it is not ours to question why God allows some to suffer in this life.