9 June 2008 Monday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 17, 1-6; Psalm 121; Matthew 5, 1-12
The Ten Commandments often overshadow the Beatitudes. It lists ten things we should NOT do. The Beatitudes, on the other hand, presents what we ought to do. The negative (prohibitions) presents a limit: if you are able to avoid disrespecting God and others, then you are fine. The positive gives us a wider range: by following the Beatitudes, we are doing more than just avoidance. For example, a person who sleeps in his room all day does not disrespect God or others in his words and action. But certainly does not contribute to household responsibilities. The positive gives an emphasis on community living.
Many moral theologians discover that the early Christian communities find communal solidarity being strengthened by an inclusiveness that moves across status boundaries of class, gender and wealth. If you care for the community, then you would not just avoid what has been stipulated in the Ten Commandments, but you would do more. You would not just visit the sick, you might bring a bunch of flowers or a basket of fruits. You would not just respect the property of another, but you would take extra care of them when it is lent to you. You would not just avoid gossiping about people, but you would be extra careful if others malign their name. You would not just respect people, but you would be against any form of discrimination.
You just don’t memorize a lot of rules. Live out any virtue as love, you would surely have fulfilled the Ten Commandments, but you would have done more. Think about these three relationships to live on: Building the right relationship with God; the right relationship with others; the right relationship with Creation. They are easily remembered and at the same time, they cover all including our new consciousness about our responsibility to care for the environment.
Both the negative and the positive ways are both legitimate approaches, but like different angles, it emphasizes one aspect more than the other. To me, the positive approach of Jesus gives a pro-active voice to discipleship. We often look at scriptural texts or see how early Christian communities do specifically in order to affirm or deny their actions, but we forget to ask the question about what type of people we need to become in order the understand the scriptures rightly. If we know what type of people we need to become, then with an understanding of our present context and culture, we will be able to discern actions and attitudes appropriate for the present --- not the past --- context.