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A Reflection on Mt 5:17-37

By Fr. Serg Kabamalan

“Low life!” quipped a millennial friend, labeling those who fail to inspire others by words and deeds no matter how lofty their position is in the society, in general, and in the church, in particular.  It may be a bit harsh judgment.  But it is quite apt as well, because the baptized, more so the ordained, are expected to be fully alive and to be the channel of life for others.

The “low life” in our Gospel today are the Scribes and the Pharisees, who by their preoccupation on the Law of God were expected to help others embrace life more fully and more meaningfully in the enlightenment that obedience to the Law brings.  Their failure lies in the literal interpretation of the Law, quite forgetting the possibilities of living together in peace, harmony and love as the whole point of the Commandments given to Moses.  They got stuck in the Thou shalls and Thou shall nots, and stopped by the doorsteps of why the Decalogue was promulgated.  They underscored the limits and the boundaries of living and relating, and did not bother to see the horizons offered to human communities by the value for the Transcendent, the human life, human relationship, and journeying together.  They failed to understand that love was the reason for the Covenant relationship, and that it should be sustained by love, not by narrow focus on permission and prohibition.

Going back to my millennial friends’ view of today’s versions of “low life scribes and pharisees,” we are confronted by people who insists on the primacy of oughts and ought nots, forgetting the value Christ has placed on every human person, no matter how sinful they are (cf. Mk 2:17).  The foil for “low life” agenda:  recognize each one as light bearers in varying state of consciousness of who they are, and change our perception of the Law from being a mere collection of do’s, and don’ts, valued over any person, to being the parameters of living life together where everyone is empowered and enabled to become the best of who they can be. But this includes throwing away labels like “low life” which we use on one another!

1. Are you still bothered by poverty?  By the slums? By the increasing number of street children?  By the beggars knocking at your car window? Or are you numbed by the ubiquity of suffering around you? How can the empowerment of the Decalogue be brought to the fore to help the marganalized?

2. Can you hear the Decalogue as a challenge to a just life that includes all?

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