Archive for the ‘Scripture’ Category

 

Top Ten Lessons from 1 Corinthians 5

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I’m currently enrolled in a Bible study on 1 Corinthians in my parish. This week we were studying chapters 5-7. I’d have to say that of the 16 chapters of this epistle, I probably was least familiar with chapter 5. I’m not sure why, but I’ve rarely had the occasion to look that chapter up.

In studying that chapter this week, I was amazed by the applicability of this short chapter to many controversial issues facing individual Catholics and the Church as a whole today. And so, without scholarly exegesis or extensive commentary, I want to offer a top ten list of practical insights I derived from a careful read of 1 Corinthians 5. [more]

(1) Calling sin a sin

“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father”s wife” (verse 1).

St. Paul does not dance around the issues. He goes straight to the point of identifying incest as immoral behavior, no matter who (Christian or pagan) commits it (see Leviticus 18; Catechism, no. 2356). He takes his responsibility for the Church in Corinth very seriously, as we’ll see in the succeeding verses.

(2) The error of misplaced “tolerance”
 
“And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you” (verse 2).

In the world and even in the Church today many extreme forms of immoral behavior are tolerated, if not protected. The one universally recognized “sin” is “intolerance,” meaning that the one thing that isn’t permitted is to condemn someone else’s action as morally wrong (unless the other person’s action was an act of intolerance!). I’m certainly not espousing a harsh, judgmental  condemnation of persons. However, if I understand St. Paul correctly, I think we tend to be arrogant (and cowardly) in our acceptance of conduct that is unacceptable. We should instead mourn, because those who commit serious sins are on the road to perdition. This should inspire in us to authentic, compassionate outreach, not a weak indifference. We must be evangelizers, not enablers.

We’ll touch upon the second half of this verse shortly.

(3) Recourse to the Church
 
“For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing” (verses 3-4)

St. Paul seems to be following the protocol for fraternal correction in Matthew 18:15-17. Apparently after private attempts to reconcile the sinner (perhaps by Chloe’s people, see 1 Corinthians 1:11), the matter was referred “to the church” (Mt. 18:17), represented by the Apostle Paul. Further, we see the authority St. Paul, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, is able to wield over the local Church, for the good of all. Compare that to the opposition and resentment we find toward the Holy Father and the “Vatican,” whose intervention is often not welcome (because of the aforementioned arrogance). For a recent case study, recall the reaction of some religious orders when they learned of the apostolic visitation of their communities.

(4) Excommunication sometimes is necessary

“When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh . . .” (verses 4-5).

Earlier, in verse 2, St. Paul bluntly said that this notorious sinner must be removed from the community. This seems to fall in line with what we read in Matthew 18 concerning sinners who won’t accept correction from the Church: “If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Mt. 18:17). In other words, practically speaking, that person is no longer a Catholic and cannot avail himself of the sacraments. Because of that, he is subject to the work of Satan without the protection of the Church. This is part of the binding and loosing authority of the Church (Mt. 18:18), and we see it at work when a person is “excommunicated” or denied the sacraments.

This is for the “destruction of the flesh.” While there may be some sort of physical or temporal punishment (as would be the case today when someone is convicted of sex crimes), St. Paul here is talking about “flesh” in a deeper sense. He is referring to our sinful nature, which must be cleansed so as to enter the presence of God. This experience of purgation, of isolation from the Church–like a child being sent from the family table to his or her bedroom–is not permanent, as we see in the conclusion of this verse . . . 

(5) Excommunication is a remedial, not vindictive, measure

“ . . . that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (verse 5).

Excommunication and any other sort of Church penalty is meant to rehabilitate the sinner, not to condemn him. It is tough love, though. Such a penalty not only challenges the sinner to reconcile with God and the Church, it also challenges the Church community to a higher form of charity. Is our charity wimpy and afraid to make waves, or does it courageously seek the eternal good of the other person. In that regard, it”s good to recall that authentic Christian charity is tough as nails–the nails of the Cross.

This charity also shows itself in our joyful willingness to embrace and forgive those who do seek to reconcile, reflecting divine mercy and not giving in to the fallen human tendency to hold on to grudges. 

One wonders what good it does the individual souls of Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and other Catholics who, despite their public opposition to the Church, are permitted to receive the sacraments without their having a change of heart (i.e., conversion). What good has that done for the Church in the United States? I think sometimes we”re too worried about political ramifications or about offending someone (I”m guilty as charged), and not enough about our holy faith and the salvation of souls.   

(6)  The communitarian effect of sin

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened” (verses 6-7).

Just as through the Church, and especially through the Communion of Saints, we benefit from the prayers and good works of others done in the name of Christ, so too there is no such thing as a “private” sin. All sin is a cancer that can poison the entire body. This reality is only amplified as the sin becomes greater, more public, and more widely accepted. Isn”t that exactly how a cancer grows? Each one of us is called to be a positive “leaven” in the world, though which the Kingdom of God grows, and not a corruptive leaven of sin and division. The same holds true for the community of believers, as the Church herself is composed of sinners like us, and is always in need of renewal.

(7) Worthy reception of Communion

“For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (verses 7-8).

St. Paul”s discussion here has strong Passover overtones (see Ex. 12:14-20). Now the Passover sacrifices have been superseded by the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Christ, the new and eternal Passover, or “paschal” lamb, whom we receive in Holy Communion. As St. Paul will further develop later in chapters 10 and 11 of the letter, our participation in the Eucharist requires faith and the proper dispositions. Just as the man St. Paul describes as living in an incestuous relationship should not receive Communion until reconciled with the Church, so too we must be reconciled with God and the Church prior to coming forward for Communion (regardless of whether someone is “denying” the sacrament to us). Here’2012-04-24 18:34:02′s what the Catechism says:

“We must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: ”Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (1 Cor. 11:27-29). Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Communion” (no. 1385).

(8) In the world, not of it

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber — not even to eat with such a one” (verses 9-11).

St. Paul is holding believers to a different standard. Why? Jesus identified with sinful human nature so that we can identify with Him, and so be saved. So He goes out looking for all of us, wherever we might be. We read in the Gospel about how He would associate with tax collectors and sinners. St. Paul certainly is not at odds with this evangelistic, missionary spirit, which he embodied in a singular way in his own ministry, as he became all things to all men in the hope of saving at least some of them (1 Cor. 9:22).

What St. Paul is talking about in this instance is associating with “Christians” or “Catholics” whose public witness runs counter to the faith we profess. When we are too lax to draw appropriate lines, the witness of the Church to the world is compromised by the bad “leaven.”  And as we continually compromise to accommodate sinful behavior within the Church, there is also a subtle but unmistakable corrosive effect on the entire community.

So the call is to be in the world, but not of it. The world wants us to be of the world but not in it (“keep your private beliefs to yourself, please”). Let”s be leaven, and not the rest of the dough. Let”s be thermostats for Christ, and not thermometers. 

(9)  Church must be vigilant concerning her members

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside” (verses 12-13).

We are called to judge actions. As a father, I have to judge actions all the time. Some of my children”s conduct is unacceptable, and it needs to be addressed. When I correct my children, I”m not being “judgmental” or condemning my kids as persons. Rather, I”m fulfilling my role as a father.

We live in a relativistic age, when we”re supposed to live and let live, at all costs. I can”t “impose my beliefs” on others and, by the way, all moral norms (except for the modern imperative “thou shall tolerate everything”) are treated merely as personal beliefs and not as objective norms of conduct.

We find some solace in our unwillingness to call out sin in the important quote of Our Lord to “judge not, lest you be judged” (Mt. 7:1). Unfortunately, this call not to “judge” others is largely misinterpreted today so as to exclude any sort of fraternal correction. That is not the mind of Christ, and it is not the mind of St. Paul and the Church. We love (and don”t judge) the sinner, but sometimes we must judge actions.

(10) No compromising with sin

“Drive out the wicked person from among you” (verse 13).

This chapter has now come full circle. Of course the Church must be “pastoral” in her approach. But there’s no missing St. Paul’s message. He loves Christ. He loves the Church. He loves the sinner. He doesn’t give any quarter to human respect or diplomatic “niceness.”  I think that’s a perennially valid lesson for the Church at every level, from the Vatican and USCCB to individual dioceses, parishes, and families.

Depart from Me

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

In today’s Gospel (Luke 5:1-11), Peter, James, and John had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Our Lord instructs them to “put out into the deep” and, after some balking–after all, these fishermen think they know their trade better than this carpenter–they cast their nets back into the water and caught a tremendous amount of fish.

Then Peter falls on His knees before the Lord and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

At first, St. Peter’s statement seems strange. It’s like telling a doctor, “Get away from me, I’m sick.” [more] (more…)

Church Authority Doesn”t “Peter” Out

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Let”s recap what we have discussed so far in this brief series on Peter”s confession of faith in Matthew 16.

Peter confessed his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus not only blessed him profusely, but also gave him a new name and a special mission as the “rock” on which He will build His Church. We then looked at the “keys” that were given to Peter, which established him as the “prime minister” of Christ”s kingdom, with the authority to “bind and loose.”
 
Clearly Peter had a preeminent role as the leader of Christ’s kingdom on earth. But where do Catholics get the idea of an ongoing papacy?

First, let”s look again at Isaiah 22 from the standpoint of the transfer of office from Shebna to Eliakim. The authority is tied to the office (whoever is given the “keys” and raiment of the prime minister), and not to the individual.

Sports fans call Lebron James “King James” because of his basketball prowess. Yet this title, or nickname, is attached to Lebron personally. There is no “office” that Lebron holds, and when he retires there will not be a “King James” on the court. That title will not pass to his children or teammates. [more]

That”s not how it works with an office, such as president, senator, judge, or school principal. When one person”s tenure is finished, another is chosen to take his or her place. We also see this principle at work in the Acts of the Apostles, where Matthias is chosen as an apostle explicitly to fill the office vacated by Judas (see Acts 1:15 and following, especially v. 20).

In the case of St. Peter, drawing upon the historical precedent of the prime minister in the kingdom of Israel, the very concept of keys implies an office that continues from generation to generation.

Second, let’s turn to the final verses of Matthew (Mt. 28:18-20). St. Matthew concludes his Gospel with Jesus handing over His own divine authority to the Church through the office of Peter and the apostles–the first Pope and bishops.

But, as a practical matter, how could they carry out the command to baptize and teach until the end of the age (at least 2,000 years)? They didn’2012-04-24 18:35:16′t have a written and universally accepted canon of Scripture until after we”ve had dozens of popes. The fact is that the apostles were to have successors–and early Church history clearly bears that out.

So when Jesus gave Peter the keys, He was entrusting His authority not only to Peter, but also to all his successors.The keys of the New Covenant kingdom are transferable–just as the keys were passed on from prime minister to prime minister in the Davidic kingdom of old.

This is why the Catholic Church has always taught that Peter’s successor–the pope–serves as the “Vicar of Christ” and as the preeminent shepherd of God’s people.

As the modern-day successor of Peter and bearer of “the keys,” Pope Benedict XVI stands as the current prime minister in Christ’s kingdom (266th!). It”s not a position of power so much as a position of service. As Pope St. Gregory the Great said around the year 600, the Pope is Servus Servorum Dei: The Servant of the Servants of God.

In Isaiah, the prime minister is a “father” to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Is. 22:21). So too is Pope Benedict our Holy Father.

What Have You Got to “Loose”?

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Let”s turn again to Matthew 16:19, where Our Lord says to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Part of giving Peter the “keys” involved the authority to “bind and loose.” As we see a couple chapters later in Matthew, this was an authority shared with the other apostles (Mt. 18:18).

This “binding and loosing” authority may sound strange to us, but this language had several familiar meanings in Jesus’ time, including: [more]

(a) the ability to make “binding” decisions or binding interpretations of the law;
(b) the authority to include or exclude members in a given community; and
(c) the forgiveness of sins (“loosing” in the sense of releasing or freeing from sins) (see Rev. 1:5; see generally Catechism, nos. 553, 881).

All these meanings come into play with Peter as Christ’s prime minister or vicar who has been entrusted with the keys of the kingdom and made head of the apostles and pastor of the universal Church.

The authority to “bind and loose” was confirmed and fulfilled on Easter Sunday, when Our risen Lord appeared to His disciples and breathed on them, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn. 20:22-23).   

I don”t know about you, but the consideration of the “binding and loosing” authority entrusted to Peter and the other apostles gives me a greater appreciation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Tomorrow we will conclude this series by considering papal succession. After all, one might argue, it”s one thing to concede that certain authority was given to Peter; it”s quite another thing to say that this authority has been passed in an unbroken succession up to Pope Benedict XVI. We will tackle that issue in the next post.

You Are Peter

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

If you go into St. Peter’s basilica and look up, at the base of the dome, there are big, distinctive black letters on gold that say (in Latin) “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church . . . and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

These were crucially important words 2,000 years ago, and they’re also an important foundation for the role of the pope in Christ’s kingdom today.
 
Imagine what it would have been like to have been there during that pivotal conversation between Jesus and Peter. Let’s time travel back to Caesarea Philippi and hear these words as the apostles and others at that time would have heard them. [more]

In our last post we heard Peter”s confession of faith in Matthew 16, which Jesus praised. Today, let”s look at the statement in Matthew 16:18, quoted on the ceiling of St. Peter”s, where Our Lord says “You are Peter.”
 
The first thing which would have captured the apostles’ attention is the fact that Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. This was not a mere nickname like Bubba or Sparky or Jim-Bob. Nor was this simply a publicity ploy, like the football player Ochocinco or pop star Madonna.

Rather, Jesus was truly giving Simon a new name. This of course is reminiscent of our significant name changes in the Bible, such as Abram (Abraham), Jacob (Israel), and Saul (Paul). In all these cases, the change of name signaled a new vocation and a new mission.
 
When God set certain people apart for special roles, He often gave them new names to signify their new purpose in the divine plan. For example, Abraham was to be the father of many nations. Israel would be the patriarch of God”s chosen people. Paul was to become the Apostle to the Gentiles.
 
When Jesus gave Simon a new name, He was setting him apart from the other twelve apostles and bestowing on him a special function. This simple name change alone would have signaled to those apostles and first-century Jews that Jesus was giving Peter an important role to play in His kingdom.

But what was that special role? We”ll find out on Monday!

In the meantime, if you”d like to delve deeper into the Gospel of Matthew, I highly recommend Mystery of the Kingdom, by Dr. Edward (“Ted”) Sri.

Peter”s Confession of Faith

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Today”s Gospel is taken from Matthew 16. It”s the famous account of Peter”s confession of faith and Jesus” response. Over the next few posts, we will gradually unpack this rich passage.

Today, let”s consider this: Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” People seem to be saying different things. But then He makes it very personal. He says, “But you, Peter, who do YOU say that I am?” That question goes out to all of us.

Peter”s response comes in verse 16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This concise answer recognizes (a) Jesus’ divinity, as well as (b) His status as the Messiah-King of Israel.

This answer gets an A plus. (I have to admit that saying this conjures up thoughts of Ralphie’2012-04-24 18:35:27′s bb gun essay in The Christmas Story, but I digress.)
 
In this scene, Peter became the first person in Matthew’s Gospel to explicitly recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Then Jesus gives Him the beautiful blessing of verses 17-19:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

But what does this blessing mean? At first blush, this doesn’t seem to be about putting Peter and his successors in charge. We need to go a little deeper.

In our next installment, we will examine the significance of Peter”s new name.

What Are the Disciples Doing?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Today”s Gospel at Mass was the familiar episode from the opening verses of Matthew 12, where Christ was asked why His disciples were picking heads of grain on the sabbath. There are many important dimensions to this reading, including the authority of Christ as “Lord of the sabbath” (verse 8), who represents something “greater than the Temple.”

But something else really struck me this morning. Think about it: The Pharisees confronted Jesus (with implied criticism, if not outright rejection) based on what they saw His followers doing. They said, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful . . .” (verse 2).  The disciples were hungry and started picking the heads of grain. As Jesus went on to explain in this “teachable moment,” there was nothing wrong with this.

Yet, the point remains that in every generation people form judgments about Christ and about His Church based on what they see the disciples (us!) doing. [more]Of course in many cases we may give a good “witness,” not only in word, but also through actions rooted in charity. Other times, though, we may give a negative witness. When we sin, we not only wound our own relationship with God, but we also make it harder for others to turn to the Lord.

Or, for those who are already believers, our bad example makes it easier for them to turn away from the Lord. 

We don”t fully understand the gravity of the word “scandal.” We tend to think that scandal simply means a public, perhaps newsworthy sin. Well, that might be part of it, but it goes much deeper. Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. It”s nothing short of being an accomplice to spiritual murder. Check out Catechism, nos. 2284-87, 2326 for its treatment of scandal under the fifth commandment (“Thou shall not kill”).

And we all know what Jesus has to say about those who would lead His little ones astray (see Matthew 18:6).

So today, while always striving to follow Jesus, who judges hearts, not appearances, let”s be mindful of the importance–for great good but also possibly for ill–of the example we give to others.  

Protected: Papal Bull?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

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Protestant “Verses” Catholic

Monday, May 24th, 2010

A Catholic school teacher once posed this question to me: “Protestants always have signs, t-shirts, and the like with John 3:16, so it seems that for them that is the one definitive verse of the Bible. If you had to sum up the Catholic faith in one Bible verse or passage, what would it be?”

Obviously our faith isn’t reducible to individual verses or passages or “sound bites,” but I still thought this was–and is–a most interesting question.

I began by acknowledging that Protestants and Catholics alike rightly emphasize John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

It’s a beautiful verse that succinctly captures much of the Gospel message or, in more technical terms, the Gospel kerygma.  It shows God’s love for the world, the shared divinity of Father and Son, Our Lord’s saving mission, the necessity of faith, and the goal of eternal life—not bad for just one verse!  Catholics do well to proclaim that verse in season and out.

Nonetheless, I came up with five other verses or passages that I think are especially significant for Catholics and indeed for all who believe in Christ:

(1a) 1 John 3:1—See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

(1b) Galatians 4:4-7—But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.

Okay, I cheated by pairing up those two passages. What has always struck me about these passages and others like them are the fact that the “eternal life” spoken of in John 3:16 is to be experienced as truly sons and daughters of God, as what St. Peter describes as being “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). Our “sonship” is a present reality, which among other things makes us “heirs” of the fullness of eternal life in heaven. I think these verses also help us to understand the problem with a “once saved, always saved” theology that implicitly denies the freedom we have as children of God to turn away from Him through mortal sin.

(2) Acts 2:42—And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

These four activities are described as the pillars of the first Christians, and they continue to be the pillars of the Christian life today and in fact are expressed in the four pillars of the Catechism, which is the basic structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Namely, “apostles’ teaching” refers to the Creed; “breaking of the bread” refers specifically to the Eucharist and more generally to the Sacraments; “fellowship” refers to Christian morality and a Christian understanding of the Ten Commandments; and “the prayers” refers to Prayer, typically summarized by the Our Father.

(3) Philippians 2:5-11—Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I have always been especially moved by this passage. Also, scholars generally believe that this passage from St. Paul was quoting an ancient Christian hymn, which also demonstrates the role of Tradition and the function of the liturgy as the Church’s “memory” of what God has done for us through His Son.

(4) Matthew 5-7—Christ’s Sermon on the Mount

This is a little longer (okay, a lot longer!), but it is truly the “Magna Charta” of the life Christ calls us to lead. Here we see Christ as the New Moses giving us a New Law. While Moses brought the Old Law down to us from Mt. Sinai, Our Lord takes the crowd (and us) up on the mountain to give us His blueprint for our eternal happiness or “beatitude.”

(5) Matthew 28:18-20—And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

These are the instructions of Christ to His Church before His Ascension. He instructs His Church to go out and make disciples–baptizing and teaching with His authority, and also promising His continual presence in His Church.

Obviously many other passages or verses can be cited. Perhaps John 1:14 and Matthew 16:18 deserve “honorable mention.” Let me know if you think of any others that should have cracked my top five!

Virtue on the Mount

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

In contemplating Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), one section that especially interests me is the part known as the “Six Antitheses”–the series of six statements by Our Lord that begin “You have heard it said . . .” followed by “I say to you . . .” These statements are found in Matthew 5:21-48.

There are many ways of looking at this passage. What has struck me of late is that Jesus, in coming to fulfill the law and not abolish it (Mt. 5:17), is having us move from mere adherence to negative moral precepts to the cultivation of the opposite virtues. Jesus’ words are not in opposition to what people have heard, but rather gives the motive and–through the gift of the Holy Spirit–the power to strive for a holiness and righteousness that exceeds mere observance of the law (cf. Mt. 5:20).

So, let me summarize the “Six Antitheses” [more]from the viewpoint of virtue development: 

(1)  You have heard it said that you shall not kill. Our Lord tells us to foster the virtue of meekness.

(2) You have heard it said that you shall not commit adultery. Our Lord tells us to foster sexual purity and the virtue of chastity.

(3) You have heard it said that you shouldn’t divorce and remarry. Our Lord tells us to foster marital fidelity.

(4) You have heard it said that you shouldn’t take a false oath. Our Lord tells us to foster the virtue of honesty.

(5) You have heard it said: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Our Lord tells us to foster the virtues of forgiveness and generosity.

(6) You have heard it said: “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Our Lord tells us to foster the virtues of charity and solidarity with all, especially with those who are most difficult for us to love.

In other words, we are called to be perfect, as Our Heavenly Father is perfect. We’re not there yet, and we’ll never get there on our own, but with God all things are possible. He not only shows us the way to happiness in the Sermon on the Mount, but also gives us His very life in the sacraments so we can get there.