Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8
The first reading introduces us into one of the many covenants made between God and his people in the Old Testament – the covenant of Deuteronomy. The idolatry, apostasy and sin of the people of Israel at Baal-Peor (Numbers 25:1-6) led to God giving Israel the law of Deuteronomy, a lesser covenant given because of Israel’s hardness of heart. This covenant, made before the people’s crossing of the Jordan and entry into the Promised Land of Canaan, had the purpose of restoring and rehabilitating the twelve tribes after their apostasy (Hahn, Kinship by Covenant, 69). As well, “this law was meant to show Israel its weakness so that it would acknowledge its inability to achieve holiness on its own, but rather needed God’s help” (Barber, Singing in the Reign, 49).
God wants his people to be holy and sacred. This was God’s intention from the beginning when he created Adam and Eve – that man share in his Sabbath rest, in holiness and blessedness. The path of this holiness is marked out by the ways of the Lord, his statues, commandments and decrees. The path for man is docile obedience to the voice of God. Our model is Jesus Christ, who, through his filial obedience, freed us from the curses of the Old covenant and established the New Covenant in his blood.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is part of the New Law of the New Covenant. Like the passage from Deuteronomy, which calls the people to holiness, the passage from Matthew concludes with a call for the restored tribes of Israel to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect.
We are not able to reach this holiness and perfection on our own. We need God’s grace and mercy. In fact, God’s grace enables us to go beyond the demands of human justice and live and act according to Christian charity. This means loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, and welcoming those around us in the Lord. This message is similar to the one we heard yesterday, when we were invited to reconciliation with our brothers and sisters and with our opponents.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].