Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost—23 June A.D. 2013
On True Justice

“Unless your justice exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    This morning's Gospel is part of our Lord's larger teaching, known as His Sermon on the Mount.  It is part of an overall program of meekness and humility; necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven.  We would all do well do read it over ourselves, when we have a few moments to ponder it, and really understand its significance.  The Sermon begins with Matthew v, and goes on for the next chapter or two.

    When you read it, you may find things that violate the “traditional wisdom” of our culture—particularly with regard to forgiving our enemies, and to practicing humility.

    But there is nothing new here.  It was similarly new to the Jewish people when they first heard it 2,000 years ago.  If not new, it seems to violate the life-style we all like to live, in which we “look out for #1” at the expense of others.

    Our Lord is simply stating that we must undergo a conversion of life—simply a change of attitude.  Not only must we avoid sinful actions, but we must also avoid the planning, and the thinking, and the emotional outbursts which normally accompany our sins.

    He is reminding us that the primary aspect of sin is the rebellion of the will, and not just the serious physical actions which accompany that rebellion.  (Otherwise the angels could not have sinned.)  Certainly we must avoid murder, and adultery, and theft, and so on—but we must also avoid anger, and lust, and greed; the emotional analogs of these actions.

    He tells us that not only must we not murder; but likewise we must not hate, nor argue, nor call names.

    Not only must we not lie about our enemies; but likewise we must not even tell the truth about them if telling the truth will hurt them unnecessarily.

    Not only must we tell the truth under oath; but it should not even be necessary to be sworn it—our speech should be unfailingly honest.

    Not only must we refrain from adultery; but also we must refrain from lust, and suggestive conversation, and any other form of immodest behavior.

    There was a great deal of controversy in the secular media about this last one a number of  years ago when the late Pope John Paul II made a comment about a man lusting after his wife.  The newspapers couldn't believe that there was anything that a man shouldn't do with his wife—they missed altogether the point that our actions as well as our thoughts must be directed toward their natural ends, in conformity with the will of God.

    A few will complain that what our Lord is asking us to do is very difficult—that it is at least as hard to control our thoughts and our passions as it is to control our outward actions.  And, of course, they are right!  It is hard!  In the last verse of today's chapter, our Lord sums it up in these words:  “Be therefore perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    Perfection is, indeed, a difficult thing to achieve.  Perhaps it is impossible, or at least unlikely, that each of us will achieve perfection like God our Father in heaven.  But is that a reason not to try?  Of course not—no more than it would be reasonable to quit work because we know we will never make a million dollars, or to give up a favorite sport because we will never win the Olympic gold, or to neglect our appearance because we will never look like a movie star.

    Like all of these things, perfection is worth coming close to, even if we never quite arrive there.  And, just as a few people do become Olympic champions, or movie stars, or millionaires, there is even a chance that we might achieve spiritual perfection if we work at it hard enough.

    And, don't forget that we are not left alone to do the job.  Our movement toward perfection is grounded largely in the graces given to us by the Lord Himself.  Without Him, we can do nothing.  And if we wish to begin the route to perfection, we need to do little more than acquire His sanctifying graces regularly through devout reception of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion.  If we are genuine in our dispositions as we receive these Sacraments, we will be a long way along the road to perfection.

    Then too, we have the intercession of the angels and the saints on which to count:

        The Blessed Virgin Mary—given to us to be our mother at the foot of the Cross.

        Saint Joseph—Foster father of Jesus, and protector of all who unite themselves to Jesus and Mary.

        Our Guardian Angel—given to us for our protection and direction from the moment of our conception.

        All of the other angels and saints—given us as patrons, and models, and intercessors, on the various paths of life.

    We are, then, called to bring our own wills into conformity with the will of God.  Called to bring not only our actions, but also our thoughts and desires into line with the divine plan.

    In a word, we are called to be perfect—and we can expect the help of God and His angels and His saints in achieving that perfection—or at least coming close.

S    aint Peter says it so nicely:  “Be like minded in prayer, compassionate, lovers of the brethren, merciful, reserved, humble; not rendering evil for evil... but contrariwise, blessing [for blessing].   Hallow the Lord Christ in your hearts”![2]



[2]   Epistle:  I Peter iii: 8-15


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