Friday, March 14, 2014

“Legalism says God will love us if we change. The gospel says God will change us because He loves us.”

“God searches the heart and understands every motive. To be acceptable to Him, our motives must spring from a love for Him and a desire to glorify Him. Obedience to God performed from a legalistic motive - that is a fear of the consequences or to gain favor with God - is not pleasing to God.”

Gospel Text: (MT 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.”

Today, Jesus exhorts us to go beyond legalisms: «I tell you, then, that if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven» (Mt 5:20). The Law of Moses aims at the necessary minimum to guarantee coexistence; but Christians, led by Jesus Christ, and full of the Holy Spirit, have to try to overcome this minimum to reach the climax of love. The Scribes and the Pharisees were strictly abiding by the Commandments; when looking over our own life, could we say the same? Let us therefore be careful not to look down on their religious experience.

What Jesus is teaching us today is to avoid feeling too safe just because we try hard to fulfill those requirements that may render us righteous in the face of God, as the Scribes and the Pharisees used to do; but, rather, to put our emphasis in our love for God and for our brothers; the kind of love that will allow us to go beyond the coldness of the Law while humbly recognizing our own shortcomings in a sincere conversion.

There are those who say: ‘I am good for I do not steal, nor do I kill, nor have I ever hurt anybody’; but Jesus admonishes us that this is not enough, as there other ways to steal and to kill. We can kill someone else's illusions; we can look down on our neighbor, overshadow him or alienate him; we can bear malice against him, and all this means killing too, not physically but, indeed, morally and spiritually.

Throughout our life, we can find many adversaries, but we are our worst enemy when we stray from the Gospel. This is why, in seeking reconciliation with our brothers, first we have to be reconciled with ourselves. Saint Augustine tells us: «As long as you are your own adversary, the Word of God will also be your adversary. Become friendly with yourself and you will have become reconciled with it».

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