Command Me, Lord

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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:17-37

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

“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. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’ But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant me the grace to embrace your most holy will, confident that what you ask of me is for my ultimate good. 


Encountering Christ:

  1. The Commands of God: Jesus’s sermon on the mount echoes Exodus 24:15-18, which recounts how God’s glory appeared as a consuming fire on top of Mount Sinai. On the seventh day, the Lord called out to Moses, who ascended, went to the center of the cloud for forty days, and returned with the Ten Commandments. The commandments are like a moral compass, establishing boundaries in accordance with our dignity. But when Moses descended from God’s presence to the valley of the people, he was disappointed to find an unfaithful people. They had fallen into idol worship. How easy it is to fall below the baseline when there is no one to instruct, encourage, or motivate us. How do I perceive the commands of God, of the Church? Do I feel like they are impositions and demands of God? Do I experience any resistance towards Jesus’s words, towards the Church’s teachings? What do I wrestle with?

  2. The Power of God’s Word: God is not a cruel master who imposes his demands. He seeks our fulfillment as persons created in his image. Therefore, he never leaves us alone and without aid to accomplish his will. Isaiah foretold of the efficacy of God’s Word. “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). The Father could see his children struggling and so he sent his Son, not merely to remind us of the law and the prophets, but to fulfill the law. Jesus is the Word of God. His commands are not external demands made upon us, but a way to fulfill us, to “beautify” us by grace as we fight against selfishness. He allows us to participate in the efficacy of his Word at work within us as we consent with the obedience of faith.

  3. The Assent: Jesus calls his listeners to live by a higher standard, yet he merely reveals what is already present within us: our internal compass for living as children of God. His commands are like “train tracks” that keep us from derailing into idol worship, the idol of self. Do Our Lord’s commands resonate with me? Do I seek to understand these words of Jesus, particularly through the teaching magisterium of the Church, as the God-given authority to interpret and teach revelation? 


Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I desire to assent so as to “ascend” to meet you on that Mount. You call me out of the valley of selfishness to the heights of intimacy by inviting me to be one in mind and heart. Help me to be a faithful son/daughter of the Church. 


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will recognize a teaching of the Church that I wrestle with or do not understand and resolve to pray and study about it.


For Further Reflection: Church Authority,

Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi who is dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala

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