“But I Say This To You” – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus has a tendency to push us to attain an even better way of life than we already live. That comes across today in the Gospel account from St. Matthew. He says that he has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to complete them. He challenges us by suggesting that our uprightness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees.
Thus he offers several illustrations of that call to a better way. Three times he says something such as you have heard how it was said to our ancestors that we shall not kill, we shall not commit adultery, and so on. These continue even after today’s passage.
Each time, he says to us, but I say this to you. He is calling us to move beyond the letter of the law and to include things such as mercy, justice and love.
I don’t remember many exact quotes from my long-ago study of philosophy, but I do recall this line from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: Those who are friends have no need for justice. The point is that we are naturally going to be just and loving with people whom we consider friends. It’s those who don’t have that kind of relationship who need rules and regulations.
I suspect that many regular readers get tired of hearing me refer to the Ignatian idea of the magis. Magis is a Latin word that translates as the greater good. Ignatian discernment is always dealing with one or more good things. The discerning question is, which is the greater good?
Fr. Orobator, a distinguished theologian and the president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, recently used the notion of magis to write about Kenyan athlete Eliud Kipchoge. You may recall that Kipchoge is the young man who was the first person to break the elusive two-hour mark for completing a marathon. On October 12, he raced in Vienna and completed the marathon in 1 hour, 59 minutes, and 40.2 seconds. Non-runners may not realize it, but that is absolutely amazing. It is extraordinary.
Orobator uses the example of this 34-year-old Kenyan to point to four lessons about authentic leadership. (1) Set your sights high. (2) Failure is not a deterrent. (3) It’s not about me. (4) Collaboration and cooperation pay.
Orobator suggests that magis is not simply quantitative. It relates to attitude and drive. He says that it is about a resolute determination never to settle for less, and to see obstacles not as barriers but new opportunities.
He ends the piece with these words: it provides impetus to believe in the limitless potential of human beings, never to be deterred by failure, to keep focused on the common good and to adopt a collaborative approach to life and work. You can find Fr. Orobator’s article in the 26 October 2019 issue of The Tablet, a weekly Catholic publication published in London, UK.
I imagine that this striving for the greater good is not that different from what Sirach refers to as being the life that we can choose. Am I capable of moving on from what is expected, or what the laws say? How is Christ speaking to me when he says, but I say to you?