FEB. 26. LENT. WK. 1 FRI. MT. 5. 20-26
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘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.’
Jesus begins today’s Gospel with a warning! “Your ‘goodness’ has to be ‘deep’ and genuine” which is a warning we need to heed; - a truth the Pharisees bore witness to, as they “appeared” to be virtuous, but Christ informed us their holiness was merely a charade; - for the purpose of obtaining respect from men.
It is worth noting the motivation of the Pharisees, which was to be recognised as virtuous by the community; - while the motivation sought by Christ was a desire to be recognised as virtuous before God!
Two distinctly different motivations that remain present among Christians today; - with many continuing to desire to be seen by the community; - or in their own eyes; - as being virtuous or “successful”.
In this reading Christ goes on to highlight these two motivations with examples, where the Pharisees, in dealing with a murderer, are content to bring the offender before a court, where the matter is dealt with and resolved to their satisfaction.
But Christ’s example illustrates the virtue he is seeking goes much “deeper”, in that anyone who is merely angry with his brother should also go before the Court, as that too is an evil; - in the sight of God!
In a further example a person is bringing his offering to the temple in order to offer worship to God; - a very public act observed by many; - but Christ points out this worship before men should not take place “while your brother still has something against you!”
The teaching, “Go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering”, is an illustration by Christ that we need to watch over the motivations in our hearts, as these are what God “sees” and is aware of!
What was motivating the Pharisee’s actions was a “Love of Self”; - while the motivation being sought by Christ was a “Love of God”; - two vastly different motives originating in the Heart; - with both of them appearing to be “virtuous” in the eyes of men!