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. 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)
Today’s scripture is one of the stronger admonitions that Jesus gave in his public ministry. At the same time, it is also a call to self-introspection which can lead to peace.
Jesus reminds us that it is not enough to live the letter of the law but also that we must live the spirit of the law.
That’s where the train goes off the track for some.
On the surface, there are those who live the law. But when it comes down to the interior of our being, there are those who follow Christ by picking and choosing what commandments fit their beliefs. They miss the central precept of all that Christ taught us.
The law of God is not a set of rules meant to deter people from killing, stealing, committing adultery, etc. The law of God is a way of being that transforms the entire person–spirit, mind and body–into living gifts to God who loves each of us.
Jesus spent much of his public ministry teaching us that following the commandments of God perfectly flows from living by the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Heart. Soul. Mind.
We answer Jesus not only with words but with the manner in which we live our lives. That is what is meant by our lives being a living gift.
It’s so simple, really. It begins with the foundational belief of Christianity. Our God loves us totally, unceasingly and longs for us to be united with him. He knows you and I. He knows us before even we know ourselves. He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in each of us. The Holy Spirit is there to guide, to motivate, to provide a beacon of clarity when we are tempted to stray from living the truth.
Jesus points to the heart as the seat of desire, choice, and intention. Unless forbidden and evil desires are uprooted and cut-out, the heart will be poisoned and the body become a slave to sin and passion.
These words of Jesus challenge us as much as they did the Jews who first heard them. If we harbor anger against another, if we go beyond criticizing a person’s action to condemning that person, if we speak harshly to another, we are liable to God’s justice. If we engage in diminution of another person, we are trampling on the belief that we are all children of God.
We say we believe in God. We come together weekly to show our love of God. This is good, but when we leave our churches, is our love of God visible? Can others see something divine in us?
In order to see the divine in us, people must see our love of others. Jesus’ great commandment is a double commandment. Each part is essential. To say that we love God and not to love others is following only half the commandment. And following half the commandment is not following the commandment at all.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, today by your grace I will examine my actions, noting where I have failed to live up to the call of a Christian, and I will ask for forgiveness. I will try to do your will in all situations and with all people. Jesus, help me. Jesus, I trust in you. “
What is the antidote for overcoming anger and rage? Mercy, forbearance, and kindness 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 or harm. 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.