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….”
This is an excellent passage to reflect on as we begin our Lenten journey. The Pharisees were considered the most righteous of men, excelling in the observance of the commandments. They were the most influential religious-political party in New Testament times. The Pharisees separated themselves from society to study and teach the law. They were strict observers. They also separated themselves from the common people because they considered them religiously unclean. Why did Jesus find fault with their righteousness?
The examples Jesus uses in today’s gospel passage imply that the Pharisees tended to focus on external observance, whereas Jesus wanted us to be aware of what leads to sin: grudges, anger, hurt, and perhaps even hate. Today Jesus is talking to his disciples about the choices we all have. We can choose to focus on positive emotions that make us good: love, hope, generosity, and faith! Or we can choose to focus on the emotions that lead to sin: anger, jealousy, etc.
What enables us to eliminate the negative emotions that so often fill our lives is that we ourselves have been forgiven so much by God. In the cross of Jesus, we see the supreme example of love and the power for overcoming evil. Only God’s love and grace can set our hearts and minds free from the tyranny of wounded pride and spiteful revenge. The Mass that we celebrate so often should make us aware of the depth of Christ’s love for us. Jesus cultivated only positive emotions in his life. His example and grace should facilitate our imitation of his goodness.
Let Us Pray:
O loving God, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)
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