As we continue our Lenten retreat today (yes we can consider Lent a 40 day retreat) we are both edified and challenged from the words of Christ. Don’t you love it when our Lord begins with the words, “You have heard that it was said…..But I say to you”? In that simple phrase our Lord is telling his hearers, yes you have been governed by the law, but the law is no longer sufficient, now we will bring it to fulfillment and here is how we will do it. The law says, “You shall not kill” but I say do not even be angry with your brother. Imagine if you were one of the hearers in the crowd. Yes, he is eloquent, but that is quite a challenge, anger is equated with taking a life? Then you realize he is removing the rigidity of the law and replacing it with the warmth of the heart. If you discern within in your heart that the sun should not set on your anger, perhaps it will lead to reconciliation before it escalates to violence. Jesus is causing his hearers to think, he is causing them to reflect, he is changing the direction of their faith. Faith is not a set of laws or rules that are followed blindly. Faith now causes us to consider the outcome and the outcome is reflected by our actions and our actions are reflected by the love in our hearts.
Jesus does not want robots for disciples, those that read the law and follow it to the letter with no thought or concern of how their actions could affect others, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” These words should challenge and then soften our hearts. In a world in which we have become so critical of our brother, it is time to bring our gift, our forgiveness, our heartfelt reconciliation to the altar. Lent is a time for reflection, perhaps this weekend as we see your brother or sister bring the gifts from the community to the altar, we can take a moment to reflect on how we can reconcile your relationships with those that we may be estranged from, those that we may have hurt, those that may have hurt us and consider how you can be reconciled with them. To do so may be our ticket to the kingdom, to do so surpasses the actions of the scribes and Pharisees, to do so is an action that comes from the depth of our hearts and from the depths of the love that our savior has for us and remember those words that some pray daily, the words that Jesus taught us, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Deacon James Anderson is the Administrator at Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center in Houston, Texas.