Sunday, February 12, 2017

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

Quote of the Week: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

When the scriptures utter things like: “Be holy, like your heavenly Father is holy,” what is it that they are saying?

A clear understanding emerges from the Gospel today.

The Sadducees and Pharisees fulfilled many roles and purposes in Jewish society: political, social, religious. Like anybody, they would at times lean left or right, or even be quite corrupt.

They often quarreled with Jesus, and he frequently disagreed publicly and strongly.

Today is such an example.

Whereas the Pharisees would pronounce the law and claimed to live it to the letter, in fact, Jesus accused them of side-stepping the law by their clever juridical understandings and explanations. They loved places of honor and respect and claimed to adhere strictly to the law.

The scriptures are cluttered with their accusations against Jesus for his blatant breaking of laws and commandments of the Lord, such as, healing on the sabbath.

Today, Jesus draws the line in the sand. He tells them clearly: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law of the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

The Pharisees could recite the law; they knew it very well. It was their interpretation and especially their use of it to condemn others that particularly irked Jesus.

First, Jesus gave the complement: “whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven” — which the Pharisees clearly believe applied to them.

Then he dropped the bomb. Perhaps in his most straightforward condemnation of the Pharisees in all of the Scriptures, he spoke: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Then he proceeded to unveil what he had described as the fulfillment of the law: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

The language is strong. He even speaks about “tearing out your eye” and “cutting off your right hand” should these be an occasion to sin. In Jesus’ concept of the fulfillment of the law, it went way beyond and far deeper than the extreme limit of the commandment: “You shall not kill.”

The fulfillment of the law calls us to love, reconcile, heal, and peacefully coexist with our neighbor.

Jesus sees the law as calling us to be holy as God is holy. To approach the holiness of God in the giving of gifts and sacrifices, Jesus even suggested leaving the gift at the altar if you recalled a division between yourself and your brother.

First, go reconcile. Then, come back and offer your gift: “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

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