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Matthew 5:20-26

The Word of God

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Matthew 5:20-26
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    • How challenging the Gospel is!  I am called not only to do love but to think love! Can I invite Jesus into my heart to create that sort of loving, respectful heart for me?
    • The Spirit is calling me to be changed, to become a more loving, kinder, more merciful and more just person? To be transformed? Do I notice the difference in me when I am loving and when I am unloving? Talk to Jesus about this?
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    • Events that seem to be of little significance when they occur may be seeds of something of great importance later on. They can lead to major changes, adjustments and turning points in life. Decisive moments can be influenced by what seemed small. We pray to see where God may be leading us in the little things.
    • The Pharisees were mainly concerned about the love of God rather than love of neighbour. But for Jesus the two are linked intimately. He draws attention to the importance of right relationships with God AND others. Reconciliation and forgiveness are at the heart of all relationships, because God is a God of relationships. Am I known as a reconciler?
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    • Jesus often uses exaggeration to teach a really important point: don’t take the exaggeration as literal truth but pay attention to the point he’s trying to teach.
    • Being angry, insulting one another or calling names is not a way that Jesus wants us to behave with each other.
    • Pay attention to the way we deal with each other; seek reconciliation with each other above all.
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    • There are offences in the law for which sentences are prescribed. But a person aiming merely to steer clear of a penal code’s provisions, will not be able to stay clear for long; and the heart will meantime be festering – no state for a child of God or follower of Jesus.
    • And if one’s only ambition is to be law-abiding, the strict letter of the law can let one down. Creditors, for instance, can demand their rights – if one neglects to come half-way to meet their demands; and Jesus has stories of creditors turning nasty indeed.
    • Our hearts should always be open to the claims of those around us; and we should always be ready to forgive – not too eager to enforce our own claims on others.
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    • What do I do when my sister or brother has something against me? Perhaps I have hurt or rubbished them, made them feel small. What do I do? Perhaps I try to justify myself, but my conscience keeps niggling at me. Jesus is clear: he says to me, ‘Go and be reconciled’. Otherwise, he says, I am walking away from ‘the kingdom of heaven’. He means that because God is a totally forgiving God, those who want to be God’s friends must radiate a spirit of forgiveness too.
    • Lord, grant me the humility to ask forgiveness of anyone I upset.
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    • Jesus came not to undermine the teaching of the Old Testament, but to bring it to perfection. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil”. (Matthew 5:17). His message goes deeper than the adherence to the letter of the law which the Pharisees were preoccupied with. It is about living a wholesome Christian moral life, and embracing the Gospel values of forgiveness and reconciliation.
    • Is there anybody who I need to forgive? Pray for the grace to forgive that person in my heart, and let go fully of any feelings of anger or resentment I may have towards them. Ask the Lord for the grace to go to that person and be reconciled with them, and restore the relationship to one of friendship and love.
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    • Jesus starts by showing what he means by bringing the law to its perfection. The new standard is higher than the old, because it deals with our heart and not with the mere external action. It is not enough not to murder your brother; you owe him respect.
    • Taking part in the liturgy makes sense only if we enjoy good relationships with others: it makes no sense for me to offer my sacrifice when I have problems with my brother. My worship is not a substitute for good behaviour, or a guarantee from the divine judgement: it is rather an expression of what lies in my heart and of my desire to be more loving.
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    • You are speaking to my heart here, Lord. I cannot be reconciled to you unless I am reconciled to my neighbour. Forgiveness requires contrition and atonement. If I have stolen, I cannot ask God’s forgiveness unless I have given back what I stole. If I feel a barrier in talking to you, Lord, it may be because I have not tackled the barrier between me and my neighbour.
    • Lord, you are pushing my conscience inwards. I will be judged not just by what I have done in the external forum, but by the voluntary movements of my heart. God sees the heart, and sees how far I go along with feelings of hatred, lust or pride. In other words, I should be of one piece, responding more to God’s gaze than to other people’s.
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    • Jesus is unhappy with taking the prohibition of murder too literally or restrictively. He wants it to include any kind of psychological or verbal abuse of another human being. Life is meant to be about relationships that are peaceful and harmonious. Hence the need for reconciliation when relationships break down. Am I in need of reconciliation with anyone today? Am I willing to leave my "gift" (whatever it may be) before the altar and seek reconciliation first with my offended brother or sister?
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    • The standards operating in the kingdom of heaven are high! Jesus does not dismiss Old Testament teaching, but he goes to the root of things. We can be smug and content with our conventional good behaviour. However, Jesus says to us: ‘But what about your anger? What about insulting someone? Do you despise anyone, ever? Such behaviour won’t do any more.’
    • He also tells us why it won’t do. It is because in his kingdom everyone is ‘a brother or sister.’ As Saint Paul says, each person ‘is a brother or sister for whom Christ died’ (1 Corinthians 8:11). Lord, from now on, help me to see everyone as they truly are!