Fr. Mike’s homily for Thursday of 10th Week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Thursday June 10 2021
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
For the Jews, especially the scribes and Pharisees, holiness is simple but difficult. It is simple because they believe holiness can be achieved by the mere external observance of the Law. However, it is also very difficult because there are 613 commandments and precepts in the Torah. For an ordinary Jew, it is a great challenge to memorize, let alone, observe them all.
But Jesus rejected this kind of holiness or righteousness exemplified by the scribes and Pharisees. That is why He urged His followers to strive for a more profound and meaningful spiritual life: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Indeed, Jesus has come, not to abolish the Law, but to improve and perfect it, and especially to teach the people on the proper understanding of the commandments according to the mind of God.
The Lord, then, mentions six commandments from the Old Law as examples to illustrate His point. This will be discussed one by one starting today and in the succeeding days. The first example is the commandment, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.”
Jesus gives a deeper and more meaningful interpretation of this commandment: it is not only the actual killing of another person. Rather, this extends even to anger and abusive language: “Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”
Some people may find this too harsh. Can the emotion of anger and bad words lead one to eternal damnation? Well, according to Jesus, they do. What He is pointing out here is that any grave sin starts from the intention of the heart, then finds expression in words, and culminates in the actual sinful deed. He said, “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile” (Mk 7:21-23). So, if one is not careful with his thoughts, emotions and words, he might be putting himself already in serious spiritual peril.
Furthermore, Jesus also links this to our relationship to God, especially in the conduct of our worship activities. He teaches that offering gifts at the altar in the temple is truly praiseworthy. But it becomes utterly nugatory and futile when one’s heart is still full of anger and ill will towards others. We simply cannot separate our relationship with God and with that of our neighbor. When we come in the presence of God to worship Him, it is necessary that we be in the state of grace, having reconciled and made peace with our brothers and sisters.
This is beautifully shown in the Eucharistic Liturgy. At the start of the Mass, we recite the Confiteor, admitting with deep sorrow our sins against God and against our brothers and sisters. And then we humbly ask for pardon – from God and from them as well. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we petition the heavenly Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And before we come forward to receive Holy Communion, the priest invites us to give each other, in a modest and sober manner, the sign of peace. So, when the Mass is ended, we are comforted with the assurance that we can “go in peace!”
The world is already full of hatred and violence. As Christians, we are called to become conduits of peace and bridges of reconciliation in the human society. This begins in our hearts, in thoughts, in words and finally in deeds of true charity and kindness towards one another.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches