Friday, March 2, 2007

We cannot ignore the spirit as we follow the letter.

First Week of Lent 2007: Friday
Mass Readings
Ezekiel 18:21-28
Matthew 5:20-26

Jesus gives us a wake-up call in our text today!

The letter of the law is actually an easy thing to obey. The letter is an external expression and is easily seen. Thou shall not kill, is a no brainer. I would imagine the disciples heard Jesus' words and were shaking their heads in agreement. Then, as usual, Jesus kicks it to another level. Jesus leads the disciples to the spirit of the law, the Ten Commandments. Right. We understand that we cannot kill. However, the commandment goes further than killing physically. We can kill without ever laying a finger on another person. Our attitudes and feelings, our words can be devastating on their own when allowed to run riot.

Jesus leads the disciples to see that harboring anger and grudges, to insult and malign someone makes us just as liable. To deliberately insult another person is to place ourselves at God's judgement. The spirit of "Thou shall not kill" is about our entire attitude about another person. We cannot love someone and then turn around and gossip about him or her and emotionally and spiritually "stab em in the back". We cannot claim to love yet practice character assassination. Compliments and insults cannot coexist. Love and hate cannot occupy the same heart at the same time.

Each time we come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we profess that we truly believe. That is powerful. We are to become that which we have received, the Body of Christ. We are called to practice both the letter and the spirit. Our grudges and anger must be set at Jesus' feet as we ask for forgiveness. When we do that, we are free to live in communion with each other in love and respect. We cannot receive Christ's Body while holding anger and grudges. Well, we sometimes do, but that anger and those grudges block us from being open to conversion of spirit and mind.

Each and every one of us are created with the Breath of God and we are the embodiment of our Creator's love. When we look at one another we must strive to see the very face of Jesus. When we are able to realize that, then we can truly love and respect one another. The Ten Commandments are crucial to our faith. We must go deeper than the letter of the law and embrace the spirit of the law as well.

When I am having one of those days and I let myself be filled with anger and resentment, I try to remember a quote by St. Ephraem the Syrian; "It is blasphemy if you pray before God while you are full of anger". I am humbled every time I think of that quote. During Lent, I think it would help to add this quote to daily prayer. May it be a reminder to ask Jesus to help us let go of the anger, resentment, gossip, and character assassination the world loves to glorify. Let us embody the the spirit as we practice the letter.

May we all live today in Jesus' peace.