Psalms in the Lectionary
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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A 2017

Psalms in the Lectionary
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time  Cycle A   2/11/2017
Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10;
Matthew 5:17-37
 
Psalm 119 and all the readings this weekend of the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time are about the law.  This particular psalm is the longest in the Psalter, one of the latest composed, and almost every phrase in it uses a word to denote the “law” in some fashion: Torah, testimonies, ways, precepts, etc.  It contains 22 sections, each of eight lines, each arranged in that acrostic manner, or that ascending order in the Hebrew alphabet.  Though it contains some lines of lament, many scholars consider this psalm a wisdom psalm, calling all the people to adhere to covenant promises and meditate on the law day and night with one’s whole heart.  The psalmist prays for wisdom in the biblical sense according to Kselman and Barre’ in the JBC (Jerome Biblical Commentary), meaning that one is trying to see how all things within creation work together toward life.  The first reading from the book of Sirach tells us we have choices: if we choose to keep the law, we will have life, but it is our choice.  The Gospel is the long continuation of the Sermon on the Mount.  Right after Jesus tells the followers about the Beatitudes, he begins to explain how the law is now viewed since the kingdom is in their midst.  In a sense, each law is “bumped up a bit”, so before when one was told ‘thou shalt not kill,’ now one is cautioned about even getting angry with one’s brother; before it was said, ‘thou shall not commit adultery;’ now one should not even look at another with lust.  This Matthean discourse is telling the followers of Jesus that the old law is not eliminated, that actually more is required.  The New Law goes to the root of the problems and guides “followers of the Way” (what Christians were called before they were called Christians) to the kingdom.  Paul’s letter to the Corinthians offers spiritual wisdom, and cautions that it takes maturity to understand the wisdom (behind the law).  The law is the glue that holds the people of God together with their God and draws them to everlasting life.  Blessed are those who follow the law! 
 
The refrain is taken from verse one of the psalm: 
 “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!”
 
verses 1-2:
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they who observe his decrees
who seek him with all their heart.
 
verses 4-5:
You have commanded that your precepts
be diligently kept.
Oh, that I might be firm in the ways
of keeping your statues!
 
verses 17-18:
Be good to your servant, that I may live
and keep your words.
Open my eyes, that I may consider
the wonders of your law.
 
verses 33-34:
Instruct me, O LORD, in the ways of your statues,
that I may exactly observe them.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all  my heart.
 
Today’s first reading from Sirach (15:15-20) is a reminder that we have choices; we may keep the law and have life or we may turn away from it.
 
text:
If you choose, you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.  Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.  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.  No one does he command to act justly, to none does he give license to sin.
 
The Gospel from Matthew (5:17-37) continues the Sermon on the Mount, unpacking all the root causes behind the law and its transgressions.
 
text:
Jesus said to his disciples: [“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 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.  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” means “No.”  Anything more is from the evil one. 
 
The second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 2:6-10) is a reflection on the wisdom and maturity of following the law.  When one does so, one can barely imagine what God has prepared for those who love him!
 
text:
Brothers and sisters: We speak a wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.  Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for, if they had know it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But as it is written:
What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and 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.  For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.
 
Psalm 119 is beautiful meditation on the law of the Lord.  It weaves the readings together in a tapestry of understanding about the value and power of the law in giving us life.