Season of Epiphany: Week Five
We are on retreat, along with the early disciples, and Jesus. He is taking us beyond the reach of the Mosaic Law and its traditions, into the realm of fulfillment–the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. We may struggle with this word righteousness, because it may conjure up religious rigidity, and more rules to obey. It may also conjure up a goal which is impossible to reach. Before we tune Jesus out, we are invited to stay and listen, and in time to know what he means when he says that our righteousness is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).
First of all he assures us that although he deeply respects the law, there is something more that is needed. He has come to fulfill the intent and meaning of the law. The scribes and the Pharisees sought to preserve and teach the Mosaic law and its traditions with utmost strictness. But as Jesus observes them, he sees more deeply: they teach the law but do not keep it themselves. They fail to tend the soul. Hence his emphasis on both teaching the law and doing it. What we teach we are to practice. This is righteousness: the integration of what we know and teach with what we do in action.
Before we rush into anxious doing, Jesus’ earlier words bring further light on our life path: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)
All of our trying, our working, our doing, does not make us righteous. As we shall discover as we stay on this mountain retreat with Jesus, he will probe more deeply into the realm of our inner kingdom, the heart. And he will reveal what is there. Knowing and accepting what is there is part of this journey of listening and following. Coming up short in our ability to be perfect is part of this journey. Knowing that Jesus came, not to call the righteous, but sinners, is also indelibly written into the path we will walk as we follow.
Gradually we discover that being poor and disabled in spirit is the dwelling place of God – the doorway into God’s gracious realm.
It is this joining together, this integration of knowing, this deep and vulnerable knowing and doing which transforms who we are and how we are present in the world. We become salt of the earth: flavor in a dull, flat world; cleansing and preserving in a selfish and fragmented society. We also become the light of the world. Our actions—our good works—speak a language of their own which people see and hear, and in time recognize that our lives are the way they are because we belong to God’s family. Here God is brought into the picture which people watch on the screen of this world. We become a living visual – a vast difference from a hour of TV programs, or from virtual reality. Now the kingdom of heaven is happening in full sight. A glimpse of God’s goodness and greater righteousnss shining through our vulnerable obedience!
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Help me to see as you see,
To recognize your presence,
And your call
To follow you.
Guide me, us as I learn to walk in your way.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Season of Epiphany: Week Five
- 1/31 Monday: Matthew 5:13-16
- 2/1 Tuesday: Matthew 5:17-20
- 2/2 Wednesday: Psalm 112:1-10
- 2/3 Thursday: Isaiah 58:1-12
- 2/4 Friday: I Corinthians 2:1-16
- 2/5 Saturday: Matthew 5:13-16
- 2/6 Sunday: Matthew 5:17-20