Prayer list or hit list?- Friday, 1st Week of Lent- Matthew 5: 20-26


Prayer list or hit list?- Friday, 1st Week of Lent- Matthew 5: 20-26

St Matthew’s presentation of Jesus is that of The Great Teacher who gives five discourses in the gospel. The opening discourse is the Sermon on the Mount (Chapter 5-7) in which Jesus, addressing His disciples, has placed identity before behaviour. This behaviour is given to them in the beatitudes; a behaviour that is in stark contrast to the scribes and Pharisees who have forgotten the commandments and have pandered to man-made traditions.

Jesus could have come merely to establish The Law, but He comes to fulfill it; and in doing so He goes way beyond what The Law demanded from Him and by extension, to us. This sets the stage for a scathing attack on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. In the first of six hyper theses, Jesus demands that the disciples really push the envelope. The JBC says, “The present interpretations emphasize that Jesus seems to go beyond the Old Testament law teachings, by deepening and radicalizing it, by returning to the original will of God.” In lay man’s terms, Jesus finds the traditional interpretations of The Law presented by the Pharisees as inadequate, though not false. He begins by tackling the sixth commandment, “thou shalt not murder” which is found in verses 21-26.

For Jesus, the analysis of murder as good or bad, is a given! He wants us to take a deeper look at the ‘emotional prelude to murder’, namely anger. The act is but a reflection of a deeper activity in the heart. Even as a priest, I see that the one thing that everyone wants to rid themselves off, including myself, is anger. Yet, how seriously do we take its eradication from our life? Never in our wildest dreams would we think that we could be murderers. But Jesus goes beyond the improbability and addresses the possibility.

So calling one’s brother ‘raqa’ or empty headed (a Greek spelling of an Aramaic word) may seem harmless, but not when there is a possibility of the pot boiling over. The thought leads to words, the words lead to action and then, it’s too late.  For Jesus, the plot thickens when we regard another’s life as useless, which initially is cultivated by words but later, demonstrated in actions.  For the Pharisees, as long as blood was not spilt, no murder was committed. Not so for Jesus! For Him, if any one considers a life as useless and relegated it even to an insult, such behaviour constituted murder. 

Having explained the interpretation, Jesus places the consequences or the subsequent behaviour which the penitent needs to have; namely, to leave their gift at the altar and be reconciled with one’s brother. Interestingly, Jesus places the priority of ethics over cult, something that even the Old Testament spoke vociferously in favour of. There can be no true worship of God without justice.

Imagine my dismay, if as a consequence of this Friday’s reading, I would find no one in the Church tomorrow. The reason- everyone has gone to be reconciled with their brothers and sisters. They, having left their ‘gifts’ at the altar during the offertory at Friday mass, left  for various parts of the city and the world, to reconcile with their brother or sister. As bizarre as this may sound, this is what Jesus is asking of us. LEAVE YOUR GIFT AND BE RECONCILED WITH YOUR BROTHER OR SISTER.  For such a reason, an empty Church would be most welcome. And if you can’t travel, move those on your hit list to your prayer list.

Fr Warner D’Souza

NOTE #CommentsEncourageDoLeaveThem – #SpreadTheWORD

With exegetical inputs from the JBC

Spread the love ♥

You might also like

6 thoughts on “Prayer list or hit list?- Friday, 1st Week of Lent- Matthew 5: 20-26”

  • Thank you Father. Your explanation clarifies a lot of things.

  • What a beautiful abs simple commentary! Fr. Warner I loved the hash tag ‘ move those on your hit list to prayer list’

  • Thank you Father Warner for such a beautiful clarification.Its an eye opener to those and all of us to forgive each other.

  • Lovely reflection father !!! Very well explained and it was easy to understand. Indeed prayer is much more than a check list. I like the insight on Offertory , laying our gifts and go to reconcile with our bothers and sisters !
    Thank you for this sharing

  • For the times when my anger has let to hurtful words and thereby broken relationships I ask for pardon.

    On my prayer list for sure

    Jesus Son of the Living God have mercy on us.

  • Father Warner, moving those from our hit list to our prayer list is a classic explanation that sums it up all.

    And although it is challenging to act in this direction, there is a definite assurance we could strike at the root of what initiates our bad behaviour ANGER, that leads us away from God’s Favour.

    While I thankyou Fr. for simplifying it for us, please keep us in your prayers as we too Pray for You..



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *