God’s way or ours
MATTHEW 5: 17–37
By Rev Kenneth
& Bernadette Phillips
Two of the biggest challenges to Christianity today are (a) relativism—the view that right and wrong, truth and falsity are products of differences in how we understand reality, and so all points of view are equally valid and all moralities equally good i.e., there are no absolutes, and (b) secularism—an attitude of indifference to and rejection/exclusion of religious understandings from the affairs of the state.
And whereas Christianity does accommodate doctrinal development—the fact that, over time, the deeper meanings of particular teachings emerge—we humans have always wanted to set our own criteria for determining what is true and what is morally right. Today, the net result is multiple conflicting ‘truths’.
It is primarily for that reason that the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1993, published a document entitled The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, which underscores the complexities involved in reading Sacred Scripture into the various cultures of the world today. The fundamental thesis is that, though Lectio Divina is a valid form of scripture meditation, the full meaning of Sacred Scripture must be received from the Magisterium—the teaching authority of the Church.
The people who heard Jesus teach recognised something unique in Him: “. . . he taught with authority, and not like their own scribes” (Matt 7:29). In Matthew, Chapter 5, there are six of the “You have heard . . . but I say . . .” statements: Matthew reinforcing the fact that as the Living Word of God, Jesus had a unique authority to interpret that Word.
At the end of His public life, Jesus gave the Church the authority to preach, to teach and implicitly, to interpret the sacred scriptures by the light of the Holy Spirit and the communion of faith. This ministry constitutes the heart of the mission of the Church (Matt 28:19–20).
One may ask whether we, within the Church, are willing to submit to the Church and all its teachings. Personal integrity is key to effective ministry; therefore, it is critical that we obey the teachings of the Church.
Paul says today, “We have a wisdom to offer those who have reached maturity . . . the hidden wisdom of God . . . things beyond the mind of man . . .” There is no gainsaying the fact that many Catholics, particularly in the West, struggle with the Catholic position on the death penalty, homosexuality, euthanasia, abortion, admission of females to the priesthood/diaconate and celibate priesthood. The one that is probably most widely contested is the teaching on artificial contraception.
In his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), Pope Paul VI revealed the wisdom of God, a wisdom that is only now becoming much clearer to us.
Our destiny, both as a nation and as the human family, will be determined by the choices we make today, and the fundamental choice is this: God’s way or ours.
This Sunday’s First Reading (Ecc 15:16–20) puts that choice into bold relief: “Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him.” If we wish to follow God’s way, we must listen to the voice of the Church, and to follow the Church, we must cultivate the mind of Christ. “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son/daughter of God” (Rom 8:14).
Open our eyes O Lord, that we may consider the wonders of Your law.
The gospel meditations for February are by Rev Kenneth & Bernadette Phillips, catechists of St Joseph’s, Scarborough.