13 June, 2017. Tuesday, Week 10
Saint Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the church
1st Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22
In Christ every one of God’s promises is a Yes
As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been “Yes and No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “Yes and No;” but in him it is always “Yes.” For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.
Gospel: Matthew 5:13-16
You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world
Jesus said to his disciples
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under-foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Conservative in changing times
If the reading from St. Paul reflects serious tensions, today’s Gospel seeks to harmonize and reconcile. As a wise man wrote, “There is a time for everything. A time to tear, and a time to sow. A time for war, and a time for peace.” How well that idea of “a time to plant and a time to uproot” fits with our Lord’s words today. In order to fulfil the Law and the Prophets he must uproot whatever is old and obsolete, to help us embrace the new. We are not to follow a dead code of law that has lost its meaing but a new living law of the Spirit. Paul calls us, like the Corinthians, to make a clear decision to move ahead.
But Matthew notes that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. We need to discern which things are old yet not obsolete–such as the ten commandments. Ecclesiastes’ sense of prudent timing applies to many aspects of Church life, where some want to conserve traditions of the past which others consider overdue for renewal or outright discarding. Our Church must take on board some values–mainly democratic and participative–of our modern society, in order to share Christ’s mind with our contemporaries, while avoiding bad, short-term and emotionally-driven decisions. But Jesus and Paul tell us that it is the Spirit who gives life, so we must not be rigidly bound by rules which made sense to our Church in the past but which no longer offer hope for the future. With this outlook we can have mature discussion about the way forward in presenting the Gospel in ways required by the time in which we live. We must rely on prayer, dialogue and the guidance of the Holy Spirit who has called us to share in the responsibility of helping to build the Kingdom of God.
No total abolition of law
In the gospel, Jesus the Jew is respectful of his own Jewish tradition, “don’t imagine that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets.” However, he also declares that he has come to complete the Law and the Prophets, to bring their true intention to fulfilment. Jesus valued the good in his religious tradition, but was also open to the ways that God was working to enrich that tradition. We too are called to value the good in our own religious tradition, to critique the shadow side to that tradition and to be open and receptive to the ways that the Lord is constantly renewing and enriching that tradition. God is like the potter who takes what is there and reshapes it so that it serves his purposes more fully. God is always ahead of us in that sense; our task is to keep up with what God is trying to do.