To read the texts click on the texts: Wis 7:7-14; Mt 5:17-19
Robert Bellarmine was born on October 4, 1542 and entered the Society of Jesus on September 20, 1560 when he was 18 years old. His intellectual ability led him to earn a reputation as professor and preacher. His spiritual depth was so much that many lay people, Priests, Bishops and Cardinals flocked to him for solace and advice. He was available to all.
In 1592 he was made Rector of the Roman College, and in 1595 Provincial of Naples. In 1597 Clement VIII recalled him to Rome and made him his own theologian and likewise Examiner of Bishops and Consultor of the Holy Office. Further, in 1599 he made him Cardinal-Priest of the title of Santa Maria in viâ, alleging as his reason for this promotion that "the Church of God had not his equal in learning".
His spirit of prayer, his singular delicacy of conscience and freedom from sin, his spirit of humility and poverty, together with the disinterestedness which he displayed as much under the cardinal's robes as under the Jesuit's gown, his lavish charity to the poor, and his devotedness to work, had combined to impress those who knew him intimately with the feeling that he was of the number of the saints.
Among many activities, he became theologian to Pope Clement VIII, preparing two catechisms which have had great influence in the Church.
Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. The process for his canonization was begun in 1627 but was delayed until 1930 for political reasons, stemming from his writings. In 1930, Pope Pius XI canonized him and the next year declared him a doctor of the Church.
The readings for the feast of this great Saint contain what are commonly known as the “theme” of the Sermon on the Mount. In these verses, the Matthean Jesus makes explicit that he is a law abiding Jew. His attitude towards the Jewish law is fundamentally positive. However, Jesus also makes explicit here, that he has come not merely to confirm or establish the law, but to fulfil or complete it. This means that he will go beyond a purely legal interpretation to a broader perspective. He will remove the focus from the mere external and concentrate on the internal. The focus will be more on the attitude than merely on the action. This was exactly the attitude that Robert Bellarmine possessed.
While laws, rules and regulations are necessary and help towards order, it is also possible that they can become ends in themselves and not as they are meant to be, means to an end. We might follow in some cases the letter of the law, but miss out on its spirit. We might even follow the rule or law only because we are afraid of getting caught and punished and not because we are convinced of it.