Father David's Reflection for First Friday in Lent
The Responsorial Psalm opens us to a deeper dimension of right and wrong: "If you, O Lord, laid bare our guilt, who could endure it?" (Psalm 130).
If we really knew the level of life to which God calls us - really saw in detail what we ought to be doing - would it just overwhelm us?
Ezekiel 18: 21-28 tells us that the choice we have is life or death. This doesn't mean God will literally kill the sinner. It is just a Scriptural way of saying that all sins - recognized or not, and whether we are subjectively guilty of them or not - destroy life and diminish the quality of life on earth. If we do bad things because we "don't know any better," we are not guilty. But we are still destructive - to ourselves and others.
That is why it is to our interest to learn everything God teaches about how we are to live. If we won't look because we are afraid of what we might see, we are still going to fall into whatever pitfall is in front of us.
Matthew 5: 20-26 shows us Jesus preaching his "new law" in the Sermon on the Mount. And the key to it is this: the old Law - the Ten Commandments, as the Jews understood them - were instructions on how to live a good human life on earth. They were geared toward enabling human beings to live in peace with each other. That was the goal of the law. But in his new law, Jesus changes the goal. Now the goal is to be like God: to think like God, speak like God, act like God; in short, to live on the level of God.
Murder was against the goal of the old law, because (among other things) murder disrupts the peace. It is against the new law even to think disrespectfully of another (deliberately), because this is to be unlike God. This makes it against the New Law. The Sermon on the Mount makes every Commandment an instruction for living on the level of God. And grace empowers us to do this.
Should we find this threatening? No, we should find it promising. What if everyone treated everyone else as God does, with God's own level of love? This earth would be a paradise!
As Jesus' disciples we want to learn the highest level of ideals he teaches, because we know this is the way to the fullness of life - on earth as well as in heaven. We want him to show us where we are "falling short," because then we will know what we need to do to reach the goal of "life to the full." We have nothing to fear from the truth that comes from God!
Initiative: Be a disciple. Open yourself to the highest ideals Jesus proposes. Read the Sermon on the Mount, expecting and hoping to be challenged. Think high.