6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
For many of us today, a quality that we look for in people who are put in positions of authority is credibility. If someone lacks credibility, we are less likely to accept any words, advice, instructions or even promises that come from this person. We may have either heard or even used these words on people, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the talk”. The chances are higher when the person who calls for a certain action makes it also his/hers.
In the instructions of Jesus, the quality of credibility is an important one. That is why Jesus was constantly at odds with the Pharisees, scribes, and the teachers of the Law. These were people who knew the Law thoroughly and imposed it on others but did not adhere to it themselves. Their hypocrisy often irked Jesus and because Jesus kept pointing it out, they were extremely unhappy with Him and tried to trap Him many times.
In the context of the Sermon on the Mount, where the gospel that we read today comes from, Jesus is instructing His disciples and warns them about the temptation of hypocrisy. The very strong and even direct language used by Jesus as recorded by Matthew is not just about sins that will offend God, but has a wider implication [it is in the context of this passage that Jesus will say if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out… if your hand cause you to sin, cut it off]. The Pharisees, scribes, and the teachers of the Law enforced the Law but they failed to be converted by the Law.
One of the foundations of Christian discipleship is authenticity. All three readings today are connected to the Ten Commandments, either explicitly or implicitly. The Ten Commandments are not just given to govern human action but are given to form and govern our hearts. For we know that external behaviour flows from what is happening in our hearts. Matthew in chapter 12 will go on to say, “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad” (Mt 12:33). Therefore, if our hearts are purified, our actions too will be pure. The purification comes from the encounter with God.
The word of God today is challenging us towards a deep conversion in our lives. Following Christ is not only about external behaviour but about the conversion of our hearts and our way of thinking, living and speaking because of a deep, personal relationship with God. To follow God is a commitment to a living relationship with God, and from that relationship comes our external behaviour.
The world is in great need of authentic and credible witnesses. We live in a world where there is so much of deception and falsity and because of these, it is so hard to believe what the media – be it print or social media – provides. We in fact demand authenticity and credibility of our leaders – secular and church leaders. We set high standards for them. If we do so, then Jesus also wants us to be authentic disciples and that is why He reminds us, ‘say Yes, if you mean yes and No if you mean no’. That is what Jesus wanted of His disciples, and that is what He wants of us – authentic and credible witnesses. The Good News is not just printed words, but today, you and I must be the good news of Jesus Christ. As the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, the word of God is alive and active… it is active and alive when we ‘talk the talk and walk the talk’. Amen.