Daily Reflection – 2/26/2021
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into 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, 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 with him. 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.”(Matthew 5:20-26)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us something that should startle us, especially early in the morning: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” That’s a very tall order. The Scribes were the experts of Sacred Scripture in its every detail. They consecrated their whole life to knowing the Word of God. The Pharisees were the ones who sought to live the Word of God expounded by the Scribes to the letter.
The issue though was that they were filled with “righteousness” because they judged themselves by their own external adhesion to the Mosaic law, and not by a faith-filled living relationship with God.
For all of us, that’s where we need to be – a living relationship with God which is marked by the love and compassion we have for those we meet.
The brutal truth is that most of us are not living our lives that way. Its not about how we look to others, or how pious we act, or even how many passages we quote from scripture. If our lives are not measuring up to His two great commands, then we are as righteous as the scribes and Pharisees. Our lives must be consistent with His words.
And, too often, its our words that betray the true condition of our relationship with Jesus. If there is discord in our hearts, it will spill out in our relationships with those around us. Words are an outward manifestation of what we have in our hearts. When we speak harshly to another, when we judge one another, when we criticize or deride another, when we write a hateful note to another, those are all signs of a heart that is not in accord with God.
It comes down to integrity, a virtue rich in nuances and meaning. Integrity means being a person with only one face, a person who is the same on the inside and on the outside. Integrity is foundational for holiness, because it constitutes the very essence of personal honesty and sincerity.
Mercy, kindness, and forbearance spring from a heart full of love and forgiveness. God has forgiven us and he calls us to extend mercy and forgiveness towards those who cause us harm and grief. In the cross of Jesus, we see the supreme example of love and the power for overcoming evil. Only God’s love and grace can set our hearts and minds free from the tyranny of wounded pride and spiteful revenge. Do you harbor any anger towards another person? And are you quick to be reconciled when a rupture has been caused in your relationships? Ask God to set you free and to fill your heart and mind with his love and truth.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, I want you to be the center of my entire life. Let me disappear and you appear more and more in my life so that, with a holiness that is genuine, humble and true, I will always be an instrument of your love.”
Jesus wants to transform the way we relate to others so that we will love them as he has loved us. The type of offering God wants from us is the offering of love, of forgiveness and reconciliation, of kindness, toward his beloved sons and daughters who are our blood or spiritual brothers and sisters. If we’re not loving our family member or neighbor, we’re really not loving God. If we focus on God without reconciling with our neighbor then we should recognize that we have a choice to make between the “kingdom of heaven” and a “prison” from which we will not be released until we have paid the last penny.