The old adage of God never taking his eyes off us can seem a difficult image. For many people, especially because of the way they have been taught, it portrays an angry God who is waiting to punish. But Cardinal Basil Hume put it like this: he said that God was looking at us all the time only because he loves us so much he can’t take his eyes off us.
Today’s Gospel is about law and governance. Jesus makes the point that he hasn’t come to change or abolish the law but to fulfill it. The earthly law and structure of governance has a purpose.
If, when reading this long Gospel passage today, we take our minds away from the concept of punishment, there is something else to concentrate on. It can be summed up in one word: alignment. Who in this world are we aligned to? We follow God’s law because He is a fearful God, it is true. But we should also be developing a loving and living relationship with our Creator. We become aligned to Him. As we make our moral decisions, as we choose which path to take in any given situation, He is our yardstick, our compass.
In this way, God is more than our rule book. He is also our loving Father. We obey not Him simply for fear of punishment, but because we love Him. And with this love comes respect, fear, joy, comfort, and the knowledge that we will always succeed as long as we put our faith in Him.
Once we have read this Gospel, we might meditate on our own relationship with God. How are we aligned to Him? How do we show our love? What is ‘the law’ to us, and where does love fit in to this law?
‘Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.
‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.
‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.
‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’