Thursday, June 10, 2010

Daily - 6/10/10

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 with him.
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.”


There is a lot of misunderstanding in the world about the role of "the law" for Christians. In this passage, we see Christ's teaching on the Ten Commandments. He is clear that our righteousness must go beyond that of the scribes and pharisees. On one hand, that's a tough order. But remember that as Christians, Christ dwells inside of us, and HE fulfilled the law perfectly. So if we have Christ inside of us, we have his righteousness, which allows us to fulfill the law as well.

Warning - a lot of people out there in the world take this to mean that because Christ "did it", we don't have to try. Recall, though, that a little further on in the Sermon on the Mount we are called to seek His kingdom and His righteousness.

Consider this from the catechism:

1810 Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.

1811 It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.

One thing that I've come to understand lately is that the pursuit of virtue results in God granting us the grace to live virtuously. This is subtle point -- we can't accomplish the righteousness that Christ describes in today's passage without God's help (ie, grace). However, that grace comes to us in response to our perseverence in trying to live virtuously.

Or, as someone told me once: "If you're going to pray for potatoes, pick up a hoe."