Today, the Gospel offers us a monologue from Jesus, a lengthy teaching asking us to be warned against the thought processes and vacuous facades of the Scribes and Pharisees.
Our everyday lives are full of risk. Spiritual risk. We can adopt those facades ourselves; indeed, we do adopt them. Jesus is asking us to check ourselves, to not fall into the same spiritual trap.
The freedom that God gives us to follow our own conscience is itself one of the greatest dangers, becasue we are at our own wheel; we are our own coxwain. We steer, plot, navigate and make the decisions about the journey that we take, the journey through life. But God wants this freedom in our hearts. He wishes us to come freely into his kingdom, into his eternity.
This freedom is what we must keep in mind daily, moment by moment. By considering God’s Scripture in our hearts whenever we make decisions, whenever we speak to our neighbour, whenever we struggle with doubt and temptation, by keeping God close we are giving ourselves the best opportunity to let grace take charge, for the Spirit to steer us. If we ask, God will reply. If we seek him, he shall come.
Freely coming to God in trust, asking him to intervene, would have been anathema in the eyes of the Pharisees. And, as Jesus said, ‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
Our virtue is to love and to trust, to make our own journey, but also to ask God to be the waves that steer us, the wind that draws us. If our words are empty, if we seek God only in hushed prayer but not in our relationships, then we shall be lost. Lost, spiritually, and lost to God’s kingdom.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit
A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew 5:17-37
Glory to you, O Lord
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.
Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.
‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire.
So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.
‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery.
But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.
‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black.
All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’
The Gospel of the Lord Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.