Thus says the Lord:
‘If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. All the sins he committed will be forgotten from then on; he shall live because of the integrity he has practised. What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?
‘But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practises every kind of filth, is he to live? All the integrity he has practised shall be forgotten from then on; but this is because he himself has broken faith and committed sin, and for this he shall die. But you object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’
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.’
“Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit”
As parents of two children, we often had to mediate when disagreements and fights happen. What would start as playful banter would end up with angry words and fights. At the end of these fights, the children would end up apologising to each other. There are times, however, when the apologies would be rattled off, with no obvious contrition behind them. These “apologies” would not be deemed acceptable. The offending parties would then be sent away to reflect on their actions until they were truly ready to apologise and to reconcile. Only when there is true repentance are the apologies accepted.
The laws of the scribes and pharisees that Jesus refers to in today’s gospel metes out punishments when external behaviour violates preset rules. Instead of using these norms, Jesus looks at the source. He looks at the heart and the source and motivations of these external behaviour. The laws Jesus talks about looks at the negative, punishing when there are breaches. Instead, Jesus’ approach is positive, looking always at setting right the heart.
Brothers and Sisters, let us remember that we should focus on our real motivations and emotions and not only just on our external behaviour. Our actions should be driven by the correct virtues and if our intentions and emotions are not glorifying to God, we need to take the right steps to align these.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)
Prayer – Father God, we pray that we may always have the ability to know when our hearts are aligned to Yours. Help us Father to know what to do to do in order to be reconciled to You and our community of brothers and sisters.
Thanksgiving – Thank you for showing that we need to focus on our “insides” and on just our “outsides”. Thank you Father for teaching us what we need to do in order to grow in our relationship with You and with each other.