Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 12, 2023
If I ask what comes to mind when I say “Moses and movies,” I’ll bet most older listeners would say “Charlton Heston.” He created a memorable portrait of Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. But if I asked our evangelist Matthew who comes to mind when I say “Moses,” I’ll bet he’d say “Jesus.” In the Gospel of Matthew which we read this year, Jesus is portrayed as “the new Moses.”
Today in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is literally “on the mountain” as Moses was, teaching how to follow the Torah–the Jewish Law. He’s a new kind of lawgiver, as he says he has come not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. He offers a challenging representation of the commandments, expanding the notions of murder, adultery, and swearing falsely, to reflect a deeper way of loving God and neighbor, building on the laws prohibiting such behavior.
Matthew’s Gospel communities are thought to have contained many Jewish converts to Christianity. These words would have been comforting to them—showing Jesus as fulfilling a way of life they had known from birth. Our “birth” as Christians came in baptism. How do we hear these challenging Gospel texts from Jesus–our “new Moses”–calling us to a radical way of life–a life of love and service in imitation of him?