Thursday - Ordinary Time
1) Opening prayer
God of wisdom and love,
source of all good,
send your Spirit to teach us your truth
and guide our actions
in your way of peace.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 5,20-26
Jesus said to
his disciples: 'For I tell you, if your uprightness does not surpass that of
the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of Heaven.
'You have heard
how it was said to our ancestors, You shall 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 a brother will answer for it before the court; anyone who calls a
brother "Fool" will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone
who calls him "Traitor" 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
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. In truth I tell you, you will not get out
till you have paid the last penny.'
• The text of today’s Gospel is placed in a
lager unity: Mt 5, 20 to Mt 5, 48. In this Matthew shows us how Jesus
interpreted and explained the Law of God. Five times he repeats the phrase: “You
have heard how it was said to our ancestors, but I say to you!” (Mt
5,22.214.171.124.43). According to some Pharisees, Jesus was eliminating the law. But
it was exactly the contrary. He said: “Do not imagine that I have come to
abolish the Law and the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete
them” (Mt 5, 17). Before the Law of Moses, Jesus has an attitude of rupture and of continuity. He breaks away from the mistaken interpretation which
was closed up in the prison of the letter, but he affirms categorically the
last objective of the law: to attain to the greatest justice, which is Love.
• In the communities for which Matthew
writes his Gospel there were diverse opinions concerning the Law of Moses. For
some, it no longer had any sense, for others it should be observed even up to
the minimum details. Because of this there were many conflicts and disputes. Some
said of the others that they were stupid and idiot. Matthew tries to
help both groups to better understand the true sense of the Law and presents
some counsels of Jesus to help them face and overcome the conflicts which arose
within the families and the communities.
• Matthew 5, 20: Your justice should
surpass that of the Pharisees. This first verse gives the general key to
everything which follows in Mt 5, 20-48. The Evangelist indicates to the
communities how they should practice a greater justice which surpasses the
justice of the Scribes and the Pharisees and which leads to the full observance
of the law. Then, after this general key on a greater justice, Matthew quotes
five very concrete examples of how to practice the Law, in such a way that its
observance leads to the perfect practice of love. In the first example of
today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals what God wanted in giving Moses the fifth
commandment, “Do not kill!”
• Matthew 5,21-22: Do not kill. “You
have heard how it was said to our ancestors, you shall not kill and if anyone
does kill he must answer for it before the court." (Ex. 20, 13). To
observe fully this fifth commandment it is not sufficient to avoid murdering. It
is necessary to uproot from within oneself everything which in one way or other
can lead to murder, for example, anger, hatred, the desire of vengeance,
exploitation, etc. “anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it
before the court”. That is, anyone who is angry against the brother merits
or deserves the same punishment of condemnation by the court which,
according to the ancient law, was reserved to the murderer! But Jesus goes
beyond all this. He wants to uproot the origin of murder: “Anyone who calls
a brother ‘Fool’ will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone who calls
him ‘Traitor’ will answer for it in hell fire”. In other words, I observe
truly the commandment “Not to kill if I succeed to take away from my heart any
sentiment of anger which leads to insult the brother. That is, if I attain the
perfection of love.
• Matthew 5, 23-24: The perfect worship
wanted by God. “If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there you
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 sand present your offering”. In order to be accepted by God, and be
united to him, it is necessary to be reconciled with the brother, with the
sister. Before the destruction of the Temple, in the year 70, when the
Christians still participated in the pilgrimages to Jerusalem to take their
offering to the altar of the Temple, they always remembered this phrase of
Jesus. Now in the years 80’s, in the moment in which Matthew writes, the Temple
and the Altar no longer existed. The community itself had become the Temple and
the Altar of God (1Co 3, 16).
• Matthew 5,25-26: To be reconciled.
One of the points on which the Gospel of Matthew insists the most is
reconciliation, because in the communities of that time there were many
tensions among the groups which had different tendencies, without any dialogue.
Nobody wanted to give in or cede before the other. Matthew enlightens this
situation with words of Jesus on reconciliation which demand acceptance and
understanding. Because the only sin which God does not forgive is our lack of
forgiveness of others (Mt 6, 14). For this reason, he seeks reconciliation first,
before it is too late.
• The ideal of greatest justice. Five times, Jesus quotes a commandment or a usage of the ancient
law: Do not kill. (Mt 5, 21), Do not commit adultery (Mt 5, 27), Do not bear
false witness (Mt 5, 33), Eye for eye, tooth for tooth 5, 38), To love
neighbour and to hate the enemy (Mt 5, 43). And five times he criticizes the
ancient way of observing these commandments and he indicates a new way to
attain justice, the objective of the law (Mt 5,22-26; 5, 28-32; 5,34-37;
5,39-42; 5,44-48). The word Justice is present seven times
in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 3, 15; 5, 6.10.20; 6, 1.33; 21, 32). The religious
ideal of the Jews of that time was “to be just before God”. The Pharisees
taught: “A person attains justice before God when he/she observes all the norms
of the Law in all the details!” This teaching resulted in a legalistic
oppression and produced much anguish in persons of good will, because it was
very difficult for a person to be able to observe all the norms (Rm 7,21-24).
This is why Matthew takes some words of Jesus on justice showing that this
leads to surpass the justice of the Pharisees (Mt 5, 20). For Jesus, justice
does not come from what I do for God observing the law, but from what God does
for me, accepting me with love, like a son, like a daughter. The new ideal that
Jesus proposes is this: "To be perfect as the Heavenly Father is
perfect!” (Mt 5,48). That means: I will be just before God, if I try to
accept and to forgive persons as God accepts and forgives me gratuitously in
spite of my many defects and sins.
4) Personal questions
• Which are the more frequent conflicts in
my family? And in our community? Is reconciliation easy in the family and in
the community? Yes or no? Why?
• The advice of Jesus, how can this help me
to improve relationships in the sphere of our family and of the community?
5) Concluding Prayer
Lord, you visit the earth and make it
you fill it with riches;
the river of God brims over with water,
you provide the grain. (Ps 65,9)