Love and Holiness

6.14.18  Tues. wk. 10 – Ordinary Time (II)

1st book of Kings  18:  41 – 46

Gospel  of  Matthew 5:  20 – 26

†Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘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 with him.  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.      The Gospel of the Lord.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                             Love and Holiness

“†Jesus said to His disciples: ‘I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’” (Matt.5:20-26)  Imagine you have been a disciple of †Jesus – listening to the Lord say this.  You have grown up as a pious Jew, you’ve have grown up to obey the law of Moses and all of your life you have looked up to the religious authorities, considering them very close to God.  And now †Jesus is telling you: ‘You had it all wrong’.  If you imitate the Pharisees, you will NOT get into the Kingdom of God.  What is †Jesus saying?  Why would †Jesus say that about the religious leaders?

The scribes and Pharisees interpreted and taught the people through Rabbinic Laws.  God had given the Israelites the Ten Commandments on Sinai, and the Sinai Covenant taught the people to love God, and to love neighbor.  This same law, †Jesus interpreted as the two great commandments: “To love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself”.  But over time, the religious leaders added 613 Rabbinic Laws to the Ten Commandments.  It was their interpretation of the Sinai Covenant.  But they had disobeyed the command of the Lord given to Joshua and the Israelite people as they were marching into the Promised Land across the Jordan.

This is what God said to Joshua: “Be firm and steadfast, taking care to observe the entire law of my servant, Moses, enjoined on you.  Do not swerve from it either to the right or to the left; that you may succeed wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7)  But in effect, with those 613 statutes of the Rabbinic Law, the scribes and Pharisees had legislated the love God had commanded – simply: “To love God and to love our neighbor”.  But they interpreted ‘love of neighbor’ to include ‘hate your enemy’.  And the ‘Sabbath Rest’ was so strictly interpreted that you could not help your neighbor out of trouble on the Sabbath.  You could not help them because that was considered work and that was against their interpretation of: “Make Holy the Sabbath”.

For the religious leaders of the time, righteousness was to strictly live the Rabbinic Law.  †Jesus had another interpretation of ‘righteousness’.   It was not about following the 613 Rabbinic Laws; it was always about loving others with all that we are – by loving to the maximum.  It was not about doing more than others, but loving more than the scribes and Pharisees.  Not only is killing wrong, †Jesus said: but you will be held accountable for the anger expressed toward another.  You see, we are to rise above our human flaws and feelings, and we are to love others as †Jesus loves us.   Yes, we are to eliminate cruel and hatful actions – but the word goes deeper – we must also eliminate cruel and hateful thoughts and attitudes.

In this past Sunday’s Gospel †Jesus said this: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness”. (Mark 3:29)  What does †Jesus mean by: “Blasphemes against the Holy Spirit”?  When we do not treat others as brothers and sisters in Christ – we deny that the Spirit of Christ lives in them.  We deny their personal goodness and that is a sin against the Holy Spirit.  We’re denying that the Spirit lives within them.  The most common way this is done is through gossip and through “ad hominem” attacks on others.  When we tear down the reputation of other people – we are denying their personal goodness and that the Spirit lives within them.  So under this criterion, how many of us are guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  We are all guilty of that – we’ve all had this attitude of tearing other people’s reputations down or saying nasty things about people because we don’t like them.

And with modern technology, the viciousness of this sin is elevated.  In his Apostolic Exhortation on Our Call to Holiness in the Modern World, Pope Francis writes: “Christians too, can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet, and the various forms of digital communication….Limits can be overstepped, defamation and slander can be commonplace, and all…respect for the good name of others can be abandoned”. (Gaudium et Exsultate, 115)  We need to rethink how we treat others – how we look upon those from different cultures, from different faiths.  How we look upon those who are just different than us.  The righteousness that †Jesus teaches is that unselfish and unconditional love that leads to holiness.  We must remember, the Holy Spirit lives in everyone – just as it does in us.  This kind of love is not easy.  It is sacrificial!

Pope Francis writes: “Whatever pain and weariness we may experience in living the commandments to love…the cross remains the source of our growth and sanctification”. (ibid. 92) The righteousness that †Jesus calls us to – leads to repentance and reconciliation, to heal the divisions among us.  Then you can bring your gift to the altar and you will be among those seated at the heavenly banquet.

     In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.