( A commentary on Matthew 5: 20-26 )
Jesus said to his disciples: “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, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at 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 says that our righteousness, our justice, must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, in order to enter into eternal life, in order not to go to Hell. The “justice” of the Pharisees was quite rigorous in terms of prayer, weekly fasting, tithing. But there were two things it lacked. First, it was external, focusing on acts rather than the heart; second, it lacked mercy.
That is akin to those who make a point of attending Church but whose hearts and actions do not follow the way of Jesus Christ.
Jesus points to the heart as the seat of desire and choice. Unless evil and forbidden desires are eradicated, the heart will be corrupted. Jesus points to forbidden anger with one’s brother. This is a selfish anger that broods and is long-lived, that nurses a grudge and keeps wrath warm, and that refuses to die. Harboring anger in the heart as well as anger in speech and action are equally forbidden by God.
What is the antidote to anger and resentment? 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 grief and harm. In the cross of Jesus, we see the supreme example of love and forgiveness and the power of goodness 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.
We need to truly examine our hearts, acknowledge the reality of anger within us and ask the Lord to make us truly a follower of his way
Do you harbor any anger towards another person? And are you quick to be reconciled when a rupture has been caused in your relationships? Do you use labels to define another and turn away from them because they don’t think as you do? Ask God to set you free and to fill your heart and mind with his love and goodness. Paul the Apostle reminds us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Through the grace and help of the Holy Spirit we can overcome malice with good, hatred with kindness, and injury with pardon.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, grant that this day that your way floods my heart, mind and body so that I live in accord with your teachings and I may be saved and protected through your love and grace.”
Since life is dynamic, there’s always an opportunity for us to turn away from whatever keeps us from God, turn toward him in mercy, and turn with him in life. But there’s likewise a chance that we can turn away from him, turn toward sin, and begin to walk in the way of sinners. If we seek justice from our adversary rather than reconciliation, we may very well end up receiving justice, being found guilty, and suffering the consequences. He says we anticipate that journey every time we come to pray and he calls us to live that reconciliation for us to pray well. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” We can’t offer the gift of ourselves to God in a pleasing way if we seek to do so with unreconciled hearts and lives. It’s not enough that our external deeds are in conformity with God’s law, but he wants our hearts to be as well — not only not killing our brother but not being angry or insulting him or harboring any of the thoughts in which we treat our brother as dead within us.