Thursday of the First Week of Advent
(Isaiah 26:1-6; Matthew 5:21.24-27)
The gospel today is taken from the ending of the famous “Sermon on the Mount.” The evangelist Matthew has portrayed Jesus as the supreme lawgiver surpassing even Moses. The new morality, which Jesus has just outlined, enables a people to shine with righteousness as brightly as a city at night.
Jesus’ moral teaching does not negate the Old Law, but it does point to its deficiency. Simply trying to conform to the ideals prescribed in the Pentateuch, the people will always fall short of the mark. They need internal support even more than external norms if they are to stand out as a righteous society. To supply what is lacking Jesus will infuse them with the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas Aquinas calls the Holy Spirit, who is God, the chief component of Jesus’ New Law. We might compare this development to the building of modern skyscrapers. Previous ages knew multi-storied buildings but only with the use of a steel framework could the super-tall high rises that characterize constructions of the twentieth century be built.
Some of us may recoil at the words righteous and righteousness. We hear them as self-righteous which is not what Jesus has in mind. Once again, it is Jesus’ Spirit infused within that provides the difference. It tunes up our antennas to the world around us. Then it moves us to reject vice and to practice virtue. We can rest assured that our righteous efforts will meet with Jesus’ approval when he comes in glory.