Sunday VI: Not being bad is not enough

February 16, 2020.

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 5, 20-22a)

The term “pharisaic” has such a bad reputation that it makes it hard for us to understand what Jesus wanted to tell us when he made that comparison and invited his disciples to be better than the Pharisees. In reality, at the time the Pharisees were the most religious, observant and faithful defenders of God. If we had to find an equivalent today, we would say they were those who would go to mass daily. This comparison is unfair and probably offensive in itself, but useful to understand that the apostles were being invited to be better than the best among the Jews. But better in what?

Obviously not in being more detailed and exigent in liturgical issues or in ritual affairs (Saturday’ rest, cooking rules, religious taxes…). What Jesus wanted was for them to go over the limits that restrained the heart of the good Jew, of the Pharisee. Certainly this could only be understood by the apostles at the end of Christ’s life (when in the Last Supper he gives them the new covenant) and, especially, after the coming of the Holy Spirit. By then they were able to understand something that the Lord wanted to teach them. For Jesus it was not enough not doing bad deeds or following the laws. He wanted his followers to go farther, to do all the good possible, not to be satisfied until they had helped others with all their strength. Christ does not ask for the impossible; he asks simply that we love. And loving starts by not doing evil and follows by doing good. Like he did.

Intention: Do not settle at not doing evil. Examine your conscience about the sins of omission, about the good you could have done and by comfort have not.

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