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.

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