Matthew 5:17-37

The Master of the Obvious by Rev. Jerry Pokorsky
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“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.  Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.  Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

“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.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

“It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.  But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife – unless the marriage is unlawful – causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“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.” 

Mothers usually are masters of the obvious: “Drive carefully!”  Every adolescent receives the maternal admonition with a whiff of annoyance.  Why state the obvious? (Time eventually dissipates the feelings of annoyance, however, in favor of affection for a loving mother.)  Mothers of course, know better.  “The obvious,” otherwise known as “common sense,” is often lost on the young.  Children of all ages need a mother’s vigilant and authoritative pronouncements.

The inability to see the obvious is about as new as the Old Testament.  The law of Moses not only warns against the worship of false gods; it also includes a law against offering up one’s children in sacrifice to demons: “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or his daughter as an offering.” (Deut. 18:10)  Child sacrifice may seem to have been a rather quaint practice of times past.  Today it should be clear we live in a sophisticated age.  Child sacrifice has gone the way of all superstitious belief.  The commandment is about as relevant today as laws governing the horse and buggy or the proper placement of spittoons.


The sacrificial killing of our children in one form or another is a diabolical temptation in every age.  Demons have a way of disguising themselves to adapt to cultural prejudices in order to receive the worship they think they deserve.  The demonic “Spirit of Fornication” (a phrase borrowed from a favorite Catholic devotion) has an allure that resonates with our fallen nature and has captivated our culture.  Fornication is fun; pornography is amusing, gay marriage is a right.  An entertainer easily gets away with racist, and Semitic and downright cruel remarks, as long as he is careful to worship at the altar of this demon.  (Examples are so common and unseemly there is no need to cite anything specific here.)

The playful dabbling with the Demon of Fornication, and the worship of countless related demons, ultimately exact the price of child sacrifice.  The sacrificial worship is not carried out on pagan altars, but in the privacy of abortion clinics and abortion crematoriums.  Although the media are largely complacent in the cover-up of the crimes, periodically a true picture of the abortion obscenity emerges.  The recent grotesque revelations from the abortion “clinic” in Philadelphia proved hard to suppress. 

Denial of the obvious does not take place in isolation.  Like a dagger, deliberate and pathological blindness plunges into every aspect of our culture and economy.  And 50 million abortions since the legalization of abortion in 1973, our aging population is not replacing itself. It is now undeniable, for example, that current economic doldrums to a large extent have to do with a collapsing population and fewer consumers.  The cause of the long anticipated Social Security crisis not only is rooted in excessive entitlement spending; it can be explained by the collapse of tax revenues as the population dwindles.  We were deceived into thinking unborn babies, if allow to live, would be “locusts” on the world’s food supply.  But in our selfishness, we ourselves were the locusts.  Apparently every age needs someone to be the “master of the obvious.”

In this week’s Gospel, Christ is the necessary “Divine Master of the Obvious.”  After revealing that He has come not to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them, He restates the Ten Commandments coupled with the threat of the “fires of Gehenna” for transgressors.  The Jews in His hearing understood. Gehenna was a burning garbage dump outside the gates of Jerusalem where apostate Jews offered child sacrifice to the demon Molech.  Christ’s use of the metaphor is a disturbingly obvious reversal.  Although the children were immolated in Gehenna, the real immolation awaits those who violate the law of God in what the Book of Revelation describes as “the second death”: hell.

There is something sobering about Christ’s measured threat of hell.  It tends to dissipate the mist of denial and self-delusion.  The next step is more arduous.  We must drive carefully with resolve.  And we must open ourselves to be conformed in mind and heart to liberating laws and truths of the Author of the Obvious.

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