For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Today’s Gospel reading is a part of the Sermon on the Mount. This famous text not only deepens the demands of the Old Testament laws and the traditions that arose from them, but it also deepens the meaning of our religious acts. Fasting, praying, and almsgiving are all occasions of inflating our egos and producing arrogant self-righteousness, if we are not careful. When I take these chapters seriously, I feel imperfect and unworthy of Christ’s kingdom. But didn’t Christ come for the weak and poor? Christ’s kingdom, as stated at the beginning of this sermon, belongs to the “poor in spirit.” It is precisely in knowing myself as poor that I understand why Jesus’ demands were so high. When I am weak, he is strong.
—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.
Lord Jesus, shelter me in your kingdom that is made of those who find life in knowing their poverty. Embrace me and all my neighbors in your divine love. Amen.