February 12, 2023: Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do swill be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses hat of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestor, 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.
“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
“It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife – unless the marriage is unlawful – causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne or by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”
In this passage from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus helps us see that sinning against the law, the commandments, doesn’t only mean doing the actual thing the commandment forbids. Sinning against the commandments also involves our attitude, our intent, and what is in our hearts. It’s not unusual in a state of anger to have thoughts of dislike or even hatred toward another, even to the point of saying it out loud. Or wishing for something bad to happen to that person, though we would never actually harm them. It’s human nature to feel or display anger at times, but Jesus tells us that these are feelings, attitudes and actions for which we will be judged. The responsibility lies with each of us to form our conscience so that we recognized when we have crossed the line and are no longer following the spirit as well as the letter of the law, of the commandments. True, there is righteous anger such as toward unfair treatment of another or other actions that are hurtful. Jesus displayed that kind of anger when he threw the money changers out of the temple (Matthew 21:12-13) to clear the sacred space of those profiting from the requirements of certain religious practices. The responsibility lies with each of us to form our conscience so that we recognize the difference.
Try to go deeper into your faith through prayer, spiritual reading and Scripture study so as to cultivate a heart and spirit that recognizes thoughts and attitudes which are contrary to keeping the spirit as well as the letter of the commandments, as Jesus has taught.