Sir 15:15-20 I Cor 2:6-10 Mt 5:17-37
Dear friends! A minister was asked to inform a man with a heart condition that he had just inherited a million dollars. Everyone was afraid the shock would give him a heart attack. So the minister went to the man’s house and said, “Joe, what would you do if you inherited a million dollars?” And Joe said, “Well, pastor, I think I would give half of it to the church.” At which the pastor fell over dead.
Each of the lessons taught in today’s Gospel passage could be expanded into an entire book. The core of them all, however, is in the heart. Certainly, our exterior behavior must follow God‘s will. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law…” But Jesus is trying to tell us that exterior behavior, that appearances, are not enough. For a true, faithful citizen of Christ‘s Kingdom, the attitudes and desires of the heart must also be in harmony with God’s plan for our lives.
This is what Jesus means when he says: “I have come… to fulfill…” – to bring the Old Testament Law to its fulfillment. Friendship with God (which is what Jesus offers) requires a union of hearts.
Christ is explaining the Law from this perspective when he explains the true meaning of sinful anger, lust, and lying. If God “wills all men to be saved” (1Timothy 2:4), how can our friendship with him be complete when we harbor resentment or contempt towards some people, or tarnish their good name by spreading rumors about them or speaking ill of them?
How can I live in intimacy with a God who loves every man and woman as a father loves his children, when in my heart I desire to use some of them only as an object of pleasure and self-indulgence? How can I be a true friend of God, when I make promises that I don’t intend to keep?
Other people may be satisfied with merely exterior success. Christ, however, is interested in every line: he looks all the way in to our hearts. He looks to the heart, not just to appearances; he knows our deepest motivations and desires.
But do we ourselves really know them? In the Gospels, the Pharisees thought they were in a very good and healthy relationship with God. But in fact, they were not. They actually ended up rejecting God. They were the major players behind the crucifixion of Jesus.
How can we avoid being like the Pharisees? How can we take a true x-ray of our hearts? Later in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 15:18), Jesus gives us the secret. He explains that, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” If we want to know the true condition of our hearts, of our friendship with Christ, all we have to do is reflect seriously about our words and the quality of our conversations.
When we speak, are we usually building others up, or tearing them down? Do we engage in crude and degrading humor? Do we join in gossip sessions and unnecessarily spread criticisms or even lies? Do we use our words to encourage, enlighten, and edify, or are we constantly nagging, nitpicking, and belittling? The fuller our hearts are with God and the experience of his love, the more our words will reflect his goodness, his mercy, and his wisdom.
As we continue with this Mass, in which Jesus will give us, yet again, undeniable evidence of his unconditional love for each one of us, let’s ask God for something. Let’s ask him to help us recognize the true state of our hearts. And, if we see that our hearts are in bad shape, let’s exchange them with his. He has already given us everything; surely he won’t hold back his Sacred Heart, if we ask him.