Homily for July 15, Friday of the XV week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bonaventure
There is an interesting interplay between today’s first reading and the Gospel reading.
The text from the book of Exodus is centered on God’s detailed explanation to Moses of the institution of the sacrifice of the paschal lamb. It is through this sacrifice that the Hebrews will be freed from the scourge that will strike the Egyptians and free the Israelites from slavery. It is a key moment in salvation history when God will have mercy on the Chosen People, and punish the Egyptians for their lack of mercy. This sacrifice is a foreshadowing of Christ’s own sacrifice on the Cross to free us from the slavery of sin. The psalm celebrates God’s goodness and mercy in freeing His loved ones.
St Matthew shows us a different kind of situation. The Pharisees reveal how far the idea of sacrifice and the Law has evolved. Instead of being a means of God’s mercy and justice, the Law is, for them, a straightjacket to be applied without concern for circumstances. Jesus points out how far the Pharisees have strayed from God’s plan, by giving examples of how some aspects of the law have only relative value. The Law and sacrifices did not exist to be kept for their own sake, but rather to establish and cultivate a correct relationship among human beings and between them and God.
This does not mean that all the rules can be bent or broken according to what most suits us at the time. It does mean that we have to have a profound sense of the dignity and worth of every human being, which means that love is the highest commandment. We need to learn to discern between inviolable principles that are intrinsically connected with the love and respect due to God and each other, and other more conventional rules, where exceptions and variations can be allowed. For example, it is always our duty to give God His fair share of our time each week, and it is always wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. However, rules of fasting, when to kneel or stand at Mass, and similar things, can sometimes be changed or adapted to circumstances.
May Our Lord help us all never to judge others hastily or harshly, and to be guided by love, in all we do and above all things.