Summary: Jesus builds a shield around the law or Commandments in order to create more space and distance so that we won’t even bump up against the fence or sit on the fence, but rather keep a healthy distance.
There was a large group of people. On one side of the group stood a man, Jesus. On the other side of the group stood Satan. Separating them, running through the group, was a fence.
The scene set, both Jesus and Satan began calling to the people in the group and, one by one - each having made up his or her own mind - each went to either Jesus or Satan.
This kept going. Soon enough, Jesus had gathered around him a group of people from the larger crowd, as did Satan.
But one man joined neither group. He climbed the fence that was there and sat on it. Then Jesus and his people left and disappeared. So too did Satan and his people. And the man on the fence sat alone.
As this man sat, Satan came back, looking for something which he appeared to have lost. The man said, "Have you lost something?" Satan looked straight at him and replied, "No, there you are. Come with me."
"But,” said the man, "I sat on the fence. I chose neither you nor him."
"That's okay," said Satan. "I own the fence."
Jesus builds a shield around the law or Commandments in order to create more space and distance so that we won’t even bump up against the fence or sit on the fence, but rather keep a healthy distance.
Consider that Saint Padre Pio said that “The Devil is like a rabid dog tied by a chain. Beyond the length of the chain he cannot catch hold of anyone. And you, therefore, keep your distance. If you get too close you will be caught.
1. For example, the commandment that thou shall not commit adultery. The boundary is actually set to avoid “heart adultery” fueled by lust. Jesus says take drastic measures to avoid crossing this boundary through the metaphor of tearing out one’s eye and cutting off a hand.
Cut off power to your computer. Join a 12 Step group. It’s better than your whole body being tossed into hell fire.
2. Murder is obviously wrong, but the protective shield is to don’t even nurture resentments-- “Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”
We are talking about just the intention here, not even the act of murder. Crossing the fence already has happened if we insult people like ‘Raqa” which means idiot. And just because someone else crosses the fence you don’t have to.
--“I’m sorry you feel that way, but you’re still responsible for taking out the garbage.”
--“Talking to me that way isn’t going to get you out of doing your homework.”
---“Maybe you do hate living here, but you still have to be home on time.”
What to do about it if you are the offending child? “...leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother or parent, and then come and offer your gift.”
That means to say you are sorry and apologize before the Offertory and Communion at Mass.
A last example is divorce in a valid marriage-
In principle, the divorced woman is still the wife of her husband, and the man who divorces his wife makes her an adulteress on the presumption that she will marry again. The man who marries the divorced woman both shares in her adultery and also commits that offense himself, because, in principle, the divorced woman is still married to her first husband. A paper divorce decree can’t change that spiritual reality.
Crossing the boundary is to threaten divorce in the first place, or infidelity physically or financially.
Our First Reading from Sirach 15:15 says, “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you.” We also heard Sirach 15:17 “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”
Ecclesiastes 10:8 says that whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
Don’t cross the fence or sit on it or you will get bitten by a rabid dog or a snake or far worst.