The Holy Gospel according to 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. 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.”
Reflection: Famous TV chef, Emeril Lagasse had a catch phrase when he cooked up one of his recipes. As he added seasoning to whatever he was cooking, he would say he was, “Kicking it up a notch.” In other words, by adding the seasoning, the taste of the food would be taken to the next level, therefore, better tasting. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to take the commandment “you shall not kill” to a higher standard. In other words, to “kick it up a notch.” We can “kill” somebody in more subtle ways than killing them. We can destroy them through hatred, defamation, slander and bullying. We can destroy a person’s good name and character by insulting them, and passing on malicious and false gossip. What Jesus is telling us is to avoid senseless anger, abusive words and contempt towards others. The other part of this Gospel is about forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply is not easy, especially if we were hurt by a family member or close friend. But Jesus commands us to forgive and to reconcile with the person who hurt us. Jesus tells us that the degree to which we forgive one another is the degree to which our Father will forgive us. This is something we say when we pray the Our Father; “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus asks us to talk to one another and seek reconciliation before offering gifts to God. The Lord is teaching us that our Christian identity is formed and shaped by our faith, relationship with God, how we live our lives and treat others.
Action of the day: During Lent, we especially focus on reconciling with our Lord and one another. Just as our Lord does not keep grudges, neither should we. If we find it hard to forgive, may we pray for the grace to help us forgive. Are we holding onto grudges? Let them go. Is there anybody we need to forgive or be reconciled with? If there is, may we take that initial step to be reconciled with our brother or sister.