Jesus: Wisdom of God, the Law of Christians

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week 6-A, 12 February 2017
Sirach 15:15-20//1Corinthians 2:6-10//Matthew 5:17-37

Like most everybody in the country, you must have already seen the series of three Valentine commercials of Jollibee that claim to have been inspired by true stories. Each series has a specific peg at the end: “Para sa mga patuloy na nagmahal nang walang hinhintay na kapalit” for “Vow”; then, “Para sa mga hindi nag-give up sa pag-ibig” for “Crush”; and, “Para sa pagmamahalang walang katapusan” for “Date”. (For those abroad, just Google “Jollibee valentine commercials.) My initial reaction upon seeing the first commercial “Vow” was disappointment. Sayang! I could not believe the tragic storyline that I checked it on YouTube again, only to find myself memorizing the lines of the best man that I suddenly “relate much”: “Mahal na mahal kita. Gusto ko ikaw ang pinaka-maligaya sa lahat. Kahit hindi naging tayo. I’ll always be your best friend.” WOW ANG LUPET!!!

Is it not that is how it is when you truly love, you do not expect anything in return? You simply love, love and love simply because of love? Jollibee’s three Valentine commercials have gone viral, even spawning a lot memes because we could all relate to any of the series. We all have love stories and no matter how they may have ended or have led somewhere else, we still continue to love. This is not an endorsement of Jollibee but during my prayer periods, the three commercials kept flashing in my reflections until I realized it is a good starting point for this Sunday’s reflections: that love is not simply a feeling but a decision made in complete freedom to always regard the other person in totality with love and respect. Just like Jesus Christ when He offered His life for us on the cross that St. Paul described as “wisdom of God” in today’s second reading.

Beginning today until the 26th of February before the start of Lent on March first, we will hear some of the teachings of Jesus Christ from His sermon on the mount. In the preceding two Sundays, we have heard His introduction to His sermon by giving us the Beatitudes, the very image of Jesus Christ to be emulated by us His disciples who are the salt of the earth and light of the world. This Sunday, Jesus tells us that He had come not to abolish the Laws and the prophets but in order to fulfill them (Mt. 15:17). His sermon on the mount is not about new laws but fulfillment in love of the same Laws given by Moses and the prophets. From now on, Jesus wants us to see everything like the laws as well as everyone in His context which is love like what He commanded His disciples before His arrest, “love one another as I have loved you.” True love is always rooted in God expressed through others. This Sunday, Jesus also cites to us a series of three commandments He is bringing into fulfillment of love that are unfortunately always seen by many, then and now, as being locked, even dead, in its letters. These are the commandments forbidding murder, adultery, and oaths. Notice how Jesus introduced the three laws to insist that they remain true and valid without exceptions then and now: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt.5:20)

Remember how in all gospel accounts the Lord tried explaining to His enemies to always see the spirit of the laws and not just the letters for better interpretation. Laws are meant to put order among us and eventually lead to more love and respect for one another. Laws have its meaning and worth when the dignity of every person is upheld. This is why Jesus mentioned first the fifth commandment in His sermon on the mount: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” (Mt.5:21-22)

Like what our bishops have told us last week in their pastoral letter, “the life of every human being is from God.” No one, not even the government has the right to take life. Jesus skipped Commandments 1-4 in His sermon on the mount not because they are unimportant but simply because the fifth commandment expresses the inviolability of life. Whether life is at its earliest stage in the mother’s womb or in its old age, bedridden and deemed as useless by some, every person has right to live. Even the most sinful of sinners do not lose that dignity of being a child of God who must be given a chance to reform and become a better person. This is the law that aptly fits with that Jollibee tag, “Para sa mga hindi nag-give up sa pag-ibig.” When we truly love, we do not simply give up, especially with a person. Love is always life- giving. When we are angry (hateful is more precise) with others, maligning them with our painful and harsh words, whether we do it orally or through digital means like cyber-bullying, fake news or trolls, we do not promote life because these attack and destroy the person. It is murder of the first degree because we destroy the love that binds human relationships.

In preserving and respecting life, we have to examine our hearts to see how we truly regard one another. This is why the second commandment cited by Jesus in His sermon on the mount is about conjugal fidelity: “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt.5:27-28) Jesus is telling us that in reality, there is no difference between man and woman as the same duties bind the one with the other in marriage or even in simple relationships. When we love, we love with the total person and not just a part of his or her body. In creating the woman, God took flesh from the man’s ribs because she is of equal dignity with him. The woman was not taken from the man’s foot to be trampled upon or from his palm to be hurt and abused. Note also that the ribs protect the important organs of lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys. In the same manner, it is man’s role and duty in protecting and caring for women. When I was still teaching in our school for boys in Malolos, I used to remind my students that “ang babae ay minamahal, hindi sinasaktan.” Sad to say that nowadays, women are still categorized as commodities like a bucket of Chickenjoy thighs seen in the “Crush” commercial. We love persons, not body parts or things (sorry, I have always refused to say “love ko ‘to”).

We finally come to the third commandment cited by Jesus in His sermon on the mount: “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No’. Anything more is from the evil one.” (Mt.5: 33-37) Notice how commercials are not just a battle of video presentations but also of words and phrases like “Langhap-Sarap” or “Bawal magkasakit”. When we hear these words, right away our brains tell us its meaning or the product represented. In citing to us this third commandment, Jesus reminds us of the need to be truthful with our words. “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’” Of God’s creations, we humans are the only ones gifted with the ability to communicate intelligibly which is in fact a sharing in God’s mighty powers. When God created everything, He simply spoke and they came to be. Such is the power of words like in that last Jollibee series of “Date” when the father said, “Gusto ko masaya kayo. Lagi ninyong isipin mahal na mahal ko kayo.” Then, after the video comes the following tagline, “Para sa pagmamahalang walang katapusan.” Beautiful.

Our readings today do not condemn us for our sinfulness or shortcomings in life. Sirach wants us to use our freedom wisely by choosing what is good, which is choosing life. St. Paul for his part reminds us anew to open our hearts and welcome God’s wisdom that the world could not understand nor accept because it is Christ crucified, the perfect embodiment of His love for us. Likewise, Jesus is also the Law of love we Christians must follow. A blessed week ahead to everyone!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan