JUNE 10. Ord Time B. Wk.10. Thu. 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.’
This reading begins with a reference to the virtue of the scribes and Pharisees, with the implication that it was very “shallow” or based on a desire for public recognition, which was probably an accurate assessment of the truth.
Another way of making the same point would be to assert their “virtue” was sustained by pride; - rather than humility; - which should be the centrepiece of anyone’s life who professes to be a follower of Christ.
Note what Christ then says about such people; - that they “Will never get into the kingdom of heaven”; - which reveals what is at stake where true virtue, or humility is absent.
He then goes on to illustrate the effects where virtue and humility are absent from one’s life, as the soul’s focus inevitably turns to concern about one’s own interests and desires; - rather than the Will of God or the needs of one’s neighbour.
And we need to be careful before we jump in and say “there is nothing in this for me”, as we are all sinners! What this means is we all have an inbuilt tendency or inclination to put ourselves and our desires first.
What Christ is teaching us in this Gospel reading is the importance of ‘The Great Commandment’ of Love; - where we are called to put our Neighbour’s needs before our own, and he goes on to provide a powerful illustration of this requirement.
“If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember 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.”
A true follower of Christ must be focused on the needs of others; - and the command to “Love” one’s neighbour; - to the point where the needs of others can legitimately be put before the duty to offer worship and praise to God.
The lesson of the reading is the focus of the scribes and Pharisees was on caring for themselves, rather than on the “Love” of God and Neighbour, which was what Christ came, not only to teach; - but to bear witness to; - by putting the needs of others before his own!
How many of us can profess we never put ourselves, and our desires, first??
Gospel Acclamation Jn13:34
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.