Receivers become distributors- Tuesday, 12th Week in ordinary time – Mt 7:6, 12-14
The teachings of today are several smaller teachings strung together to form part of St Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and to draw the sermon to a conclusion (verses 13-27).
The sense of “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn and tear you to pieces,” is unclear. The word “holy” or hágios translates from the Greek as different or unlike others. In the Old Testament it also refers to sacrificial meat (Exodus 29: 33).
In the NT, hágios (“holy”) has a “technical” meaning indicating that one is “different from the world”. Hence in this case it means, do not take the message of God which is different from the world and give it to dogs. The Jews contemptuously also called the Gentiles “dogs” and the Jews abhorred the pig. The message of Jesus is not to be misunderstood as some racial slur but within the context of the Gospel of Matthew which had as its focus a Jewish audience. Hence, the message of the kingdom of God, meant for the “chosen ones” should be treasured like pearls, which for the people of the orient were far precious than diamonds or jewels ( remember the parable of the pearl of great price)
In this lies a message for all of us. The word of God is holy, its message is different from secular ideology and yet it lies dusty on our shelves while we foolishly devour secular teaching with a greater appetite than we do with the Word of God.
Matthew also strings together another great teaching known as the ‘golden rule’; “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you”. From a literary point of view this is the end of the Sermon on the Mount, a summary of its contents (JBC) and hence can be read as the pinnacle of the Sermon on the Mount.
While several other religious and cultural traditions including the Hellenists and Sophists held a similar view, this teaching was always presented in the negative. The great Jewish Rabbi, Hillel said, “Don’t do that”, Confucius said “don’t do to others what you don’t wish done to you”. The Stoics held that “what you don’t want done to you, don’t do to anyone else” All these were always presented in the negative.
Jesus gave this teaching a new perspective, a positive perspective; “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” Unfortunately a masochist may wreak havoc with this rule, hence one must see this ethic as a balance of ones obligations; as one controlled by the notion of good (JBC) As receivers of God’s blessings, we should be distributors of it.
Fr Warner D’Souza