6th Sunday – Year A
Matthew writes his Gospel to a community of Jewish origin. The evangelist is forced to balance between the continuity with Judaism and the break that Jesus’ message entails. The two keywords are: not abolish but fulfill.
Jesus complies with all Jewish law, with the Torah, but, at the same time, radically transcends it. “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Fulfilling the Law means to exceed the Law, superabound, continuously moving beyond the letter of the Law, therefore transgressing the Law, in order to reach out the core of the Law, the root, the center, and the essence of the Law.
Jesus’ radical interpretation of God’s commandments does not make him a religious fundamentalist, a literalist of the Torah and even more an obsessive moralist!
Sometimes, our mind associates “radicality” with demand, voluntarism, perfectionism, mortification… It is probable that Matthew himself fell into this same trap when he talks about “tearing out an eye” or “cutting off a hand.” Was Matthew’s Jesus a kind of Taliban of 1st century AD?
Radicality refers to the word “root.” With that, the emphasis shifts from “what I do”, what radical action I need to do, to “from where,” “out of what” I do act. Because it is precisely the kind of source, out of which I act out as a religious person, that defines my religious radicality. It is a radicality that hints to a root, a depth of Life: a wellspring of Trust.
The apostle Paul so defines this underlying and encompassing womb out of which we contact life and are born: “We speak of God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, predetermined before all ages for our glory.”
This very Divine Wisdom is the foundation of the Law, the bosom out of which we are begotten as sons and daughters of God. “Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.”
Radicality does not consist, therefore, in changing the “content” of the norm—the what— and adding a surplus of many other commandments.” Radicality means to live and abide in that “place,” in that “womb,” in that “bosom,” —the where—in which our true identity is.
Matthew has another name for this place where we are born. Matthew calls it the “secret” where the unseen God “sees.” It is a place where God’s eyes are open wide as the first reading from the book of Sirach is telling us: “Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power, and all-seeing. The eyes of God are on those who fear him; he understands man’s every deed.”
In his chapter 6, Matthew speaks about prayer-fasting-almsgiving. “But when you pray/fast/give alms, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Mt 6:6) We are seen by the unseen God, and that Divine sight generates us as children of God.
“Jesus replied, ‘Is it not written in your Law: ‘I have said you are gods’?” The Law – says Jesus – calls gods those “to whom the word of God came – and the Scripture cannot be broken.” (Joh 10:34-35)
This is the “radicality” Jesus is talking about. This is the “radicality” the apostle Paul is talking about, by pointing to the Spirit who “scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.” In this depth of radicality, we are born as sons and daughters of God.
When eye sees “what eye has not seen” and ear hears, “what ear has not heard” and heart experiences that what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit,” then the Law has been fulfilled.
Jesus has been the first fruit of this fulfillment, thus fulfilling what the prophet Jeremiah (31:33) had promised:
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
Therefore, says the Gospel of John about Jesus: “You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be God” (Joh 10:33). And Jesus answers: “Why do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” (Joh 10:36).
The radicality Jesus is pointing to resonates from the excess of love and joy of his experience with the source and he calls it “Abba – Father.”
It’s the experience of the Spirit that continuously moves us beyond the letter of the Law, in order to reach out the core of the Law, the radicality of that Love in which we are born.
“This is His commandment, that we love one another.” (1Joh 3:23). “Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1John 4:7)