Each of our major universities is served by a Newman Club, which is a gathering place for Catholic scholars. They are called after Blessed Henry Newman, an English Catholic scholar who is noted for his clear teaching on how through the centuries our Catholic teachings undergo development. Their growth is analogous to that of the physical and mental development of individual men and women; and it is in accord with Jesus telling us we must read the signs of the times.
Both of today’s readings chronicle such development. The First Commandment from 1300 B.C. in the Book of Exodus, following the primitive tribal mentality of the time, said that credit for a man’s great or sinful deeds would be passed on for four generations. Ezekiel, writing six generations later, when individual responsibility had come to be recognized, said each individual would receive credit for his good and bad deeds.
In the Gospel reading Jesus was refuting the accusation that he was doing away with the Law of Moses. He said, “I did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” While life was cheap among the primitive men for whom Moses spoke, his command to avoid killing was a step forward. But, Our Lord, legislating for those with an adult mentality, told us to not even be angry.
Vatican II had many examples of development in moral teaching. As our world emerges from a time when only those of noble birth had any chance of advancement, the Council insisted that every person, created in God’s image, has a right to education and to freedom of religious convictions.