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The Law and the Prophets: Choose Life
Daily Gospel Reflection: Tuesday Jun 27th, 2023
I have to admit, I find the chosen verses for today’s Gospel a rather confusing mix. The first line is taken from near the end of the Sermon on the Mount and the remaining is a summary of the content in the Sermon, and then some final warnings. From a literary structure point of view, these verses from Matthew are a bit of an eclectic bunch.
It was in discussion with my husband that a way to understand these diverse verses came to light:
I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live Deuteronomy 20:19
It’s a pity this isn’t the first reading today, but nevertheless it can provide a light in which to read the selection. Earlier in the Sermon we hear Jesus say that he has not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Jesus, this preacher on the Mount before the crowds, is the very same one who declared to his people: Choose life.
What is life according to Jesus? It is the whole of the Sermon he is giving: the Beatitudes, the call to love our enemies, the Our Father…it is a mingling of loving, worshipping, and communing with God and also loving, communing with, and taking care of those we encounter. Together, these sum up the Law and the Prophets. He challenges us to choose life.
The words he gives us are our pearls, they are a blessing gifted to us from God. We are now adorned with not only his words, but his own Spirit living out his words within us too. Yet not all who have ears can hear how precious his words are and how they give life. Today many look upon Jesus’ teaching as no greater than what they might come up with themselves or worse, a burden and a curse. But Jesus’ love, teaching, and exemplar life are truly blessings and life for us; they are our pearls.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. Matthew 7:14
As a part of his final warnings at the very end of the Sermon (7:13-27), Jesus’ admonitions to the crowd serve to underscore the gravity of choosing life. It is not a passive act, it must be reflected in our deeds. The four warnings are framed by our final end: we will be known to Jesus by whether we have acted on his words. Our deeds will be evidence either for or against us whether we have done this. If we choose not to act on his words, we risk final destruction.
Today I choose to hear this Gospel and run an examination of conscience. And also commit reading his whole Sermon on the Mount again. I can’t act on his words if I’ve forgotten what he asks of me. And it seems to be a good time to head back to Confession. I know I have not fully lived up to Jesus’ words, but I can seek forgiveness, healing, and encouragement before getting back out there to live out the Law and the Prophets: choose life.
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