6th Sunday Year A - Homily 1

Homily 1 – 2011 

Jesus saw the Kingdom of heaven as there to be entered.  But what did he mean by Kingdom of heaven?  That is not so easy to answer.  One way of pinning it down could be this.  It is a way of living: of being alive, of being ourselves, of interacting with others and with the created world, a way of living that would be personally satisfying and totally fulfilling.

It is founded on the fact that we loved by God.  But that has always been so.  It needs more.  We need to recognise that God loves us, and to go along with the fact.  We need to believe in the God who is love.  [We probably all think that we do that already – but I am not so sure.  We don’t always sit easily with God’s totally unconditional love – either for ourselves or for everyone.]  A consequence of being totally loved by God is that we all have an amazing dignity – independently of  whether we realise it or not, or whether we live up to it or not.

We begin to enter the Kingdom of heaven as we recognise our dignity, and, at the same time, the equal dignity of every human person, and seek to interact accordingly.  That interacting consists in learning to see each other as in fact we are: loved by God, sharing the life of God (and, in that sense, children of God – brothers and sisters of each other); and to respect our selves and to respect all others as well.

Jesus saw that the way proposed by the scribes and Pharisees did not measure up to life in the Kingdom: If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the Kingdom of heaven.  What was the way of living proposed by the scribes and Pharisees?  It wasn’t peculiar to them.  We are all very familiar with it.

It is way of living that relies on commandments, on laws and traditions –  a way of life guided from the outside.  Now, it is important to keep the commandments, for sure.  Jesus was clear about that: anyone who infringes even one of the least of these commandments … will be considered least in the Kingdom of heaven.  But a life dominated by commandments is not life in the Kingdom.  So long as we see our lives determined by rules imposed on us by others – even if the other is God, we live as slaves.  Our motivation is ultimately fear.  Life in the Kingdom is not life lived under law, or under fear.  It is a life that flows from a profound personal acceptance of human dignity, and is guided from within – not from outside, by virtue, not be law, and is motivated by, and takes shape in, real, genuine respect.

The examples that Jesus lists in today’s Reading are all clearly based on the need for a personalised recognition of others’ God-given dignity, and what flows from that: the destructiveness even of spontaneous hostility, the dignity of woman and the wonder of married love, the importance of trust as the basis for community, and, following from that, the need for truthfulness.

Jesus came to set us free.  For blind obedience, he substituted insight into the real; for law, he substituted virtue; and for obligation imposed from outside, he substituted the inner call of enlightened conscience.