Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
Feb. 13: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading deals with the subject of free will. Echoing Deuteronomy 30:15 it sets before us a fundamental choice: life or death, good or evil.
Psalm 119 is the longest in the Psalter. Indeed, at 176 verses it’s the longest chapter in the whole Bible! Psalm 119 extols the incomparable worth of the Torah. The Law was seen as a glorious revelation of God to his people, leading them to life, happiness and peace. Those who follow the Law are truly blessed.
In the second reading Paul contrasts God’s wisdom with “the wisdom of this age.” The “mysterious and hidden” wisdom of which Paul speaks is the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity—the mystery of God in himself. “What eye has not seen, nor ear heard” has now been revealed in Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is the New Law of the Gospel. In this week’s reading Jesus explains how the New Law differs from the Old Law, but not in a way that negates it. Rather, the New Law fulfills the Old Law, leading it to its proper end. Christ does not put an end to the Law; he reveals its true meaning and intent.
Key verse: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “God, our Creator and Redeemer, chose Israel for himself to be his people and revealed his Law to them, thus preparing for the coming of Christ. The Old Law is the first stage of revealed Law. Its moral prescriptions are summed up in the Ten Commandments. The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount” (Nos. 1961, 1962, 1965).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The roots of Christianity are found in the Old Testament, and Christianity continually draws nourishment from these roots. Consequently, sound Christian doctrine has always resisted all new forms of Marcionism, which tend, in different ways, to set the Old Testament in opposition to the New” (“The Word of the Lord,” 40).
Life application: Arithmetic comes before algebra, which come before calculus and higher mathematics. We learned to crawl before we could walk, and to walk before we could run. In the same way, we have to learn the Ten Commandments and the basic moral teachings of the Old Testament before we can go on to the higher things of God revealed in Christ. “The highest cannot stand without the lowest.”
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. For information on subscribing to "Breaking Open the Word, click here. For archives click here.