True Righteousness


Thursday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 18: 41-46; Matthew 5: 20-26

Dc. Larry Brockman

So, our righteousness must surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees?  Interesting, because although the Scribes and Pharisees don’t fare well in the Gospel stories, they were actually pretty righteous folks compared to most of the others in their time and day.  Now the thing they emphasized was the letter of the law- what was written literally.  We have people who focus on the literal interpretation of the Bible today as well, and many of them seem pretty righteous from what we can see.  So, what’s the problem? 

Well, Jesus makes it pretty clear that it takes more to be His follower than obedience to a literal interpretation of the law.  He uses “Thou shall not Kill” as an example.  What Jesus says is that we must avoid all semblances of hostile feelings against our neighbor.  We must expunge hostility from our hearts.  That means we shouldn’t call a person an imbecile (that’s what raqa means); or call someone a fool; or hold anger against a neighbor, or not settle a dispute with a neighbor.  Wow, those are pretty tall orders, aren’t they? 

Which of us is beyond calling someone an idiot, or worse, when they cut in on us in traffic;  or which of us doesn’t have a neighbor that we have problems with; and which one of us doesn’t hold on to anger when somebody, especially a family member, hurts us.  It would seem that all of us who are human deal with these problems continually.  So, are all of us doomed? 

I think the key here is attitude, because, although the Pharisees and Scribes were more righteous than the average Joe in their day, their attitude was often one of self righteousness, of arrogance, rather than sincerity and humility.  Their self righteousness was driven by knowledge, because they were more knowledgeable of scripture and God’s Law; or by power, because they held and enjoyed positions of prominence in Society.  They were deluding themselves into feeling righteous, because they had just dealt with the external appearances of complying with the law; and not internal soul searching over the depth of the law. 

And so Jesus is urging us to internalize these commands of His, like “Thou Shall Not Kill”.  We need to hunger for what the full meaning of the commandments is, open always to searching our consciences.  That way, the commandments will be written in our hearts, not just our minds. 

When you do that, then you realize just how human and weak you are.  It’s a real lesson in humility.  We are all in this world together, all struggling to achieve salvation.  And so, everybody gets angry, thinks people are imbeciles or fools, hold grudges, and avoids settling disputes- everybody.  We are all guilty of these things.  But we are all forgiven- as long as we forgive others too.  And that is true Righteousness.   

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