Summary: Our righteousness is measured against that of Jesus–who loved us all the way to the cross and challenged us to follow His love.
5th Sunday after Pentecost 2016
A Reading from the first Epistle of St. Peter
Beloved: All of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind. 9 Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“He that would love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking guile; 11 let him turn away from evil and do right;
let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil.”
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? 14 But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
The Continuation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew
At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
The Church in her wisdom is careful about the words of the Mass. Today we hear the first words of the Introit, and we can learn a lot from the verbs. Exaudi, Domine, vocem meam, qua clamavi ad te. Not “audi” which means, simply, listen, but “exaudi,” hear clearly. Not “dixi ad te”, which means “say to Thee,” but “clamavi”, shout to Thee. The Bride is speaking to the Bridegroom, and she is in pain, pleading for the divine ear. “Be my supporter, don’t leave me, don’t despise me, O God my salvation.”
We would be wrong to suppose that such a prayer is offered so that we might get God’s attention, or change God’s mind in some way. God is ever-present to each of us, closer to us than we are to ourselves. Moreover, God is changeless. Right at the center of the psalms we read the truth: Steadfast is His loving kindness toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. God is always paying attention; God is always ready to hear those who cry to Him.
Then what in the world is all the clamor for? Why do we “shout”? We shout in order that we might hear ourselves clearly and loudly, so that we can understand down deep in our souls just what a horrible abyss we are crying out from. It’s a bottomless hole that was excavated by our first parents, a hole of rebellion and of tendency to turn our backs on God and do what we want rather than what He wants. It’s a hole many miles deep that we continue to dig deeper with every sin, with every refusal. The biggest fear any human being has is that he has dug so deep a hole that even God can’t get him out. Of course, refusing to believe that God can hear us and rescue us is the sin of despair. God can save us from any peril, especially our own moral stupidity.
The psalms are full of prayers from those seeking an escape from the darkness of sin and death. “I am counted among them that go down to the pit: I am become as a man without help.” “My rock, do not be deaf to me, For if You are silent to me, I will become like those who go down to the pit.” “Do not hide Your face from me, Or I will become like those who go down to the pit.” Can we be saved from the darkness of despair?