Sir 15:15-20, I Cor 2:6-10, Mt 5:17-3
Cop walks up to the car & sees a young nun behind the wheel. Excuse me ma’am, can you tell me why you were driving so slow on the highway? Officer, said the nun, this is the first time I’m driving after getting my license, taking my guests to Chicago airport. I was only going the speed limit, is anything wrong with it? There was a sign back a half mile that said the it was US 12. Cop: Ma’am, the speed limit is 55mph, the sign you saw was for this road, Highway 12.
Nun: Oh my, that makes a lot of sense now. I apologize & I’ll make sure I look closer at the signs. The cop then looks around the car & notices that all the passengers look like they’ve seen a ghost. Cop: Is everyone alright? Nun: Oh yes. They’ll be fine. They have their look because we just got out of US 131! Cop: ???? The nun wanted to follow the traffic rule as she learned but only thing she didn’t know where to watch for speed limit.
The scribes and Pharisees had a certain kind of goodness, even holiness. Jesus did not condemn them for the goodness they sought, rather He condemned them for what they did not have in their hearts. They had no depth. They governed their thoughts and actions by their external observance of the Jewish laws and how they appeared in the eyes of others. The love of God and the love of others that flows from our love of God never filled their inner selves, never filled their hearts where they really lived. Sure, they did not murder others, but they allowed themselves to hate. Sure, they did not commit adultery, but they allowed themselves to regard women merely as objects for the pleasure of males. Wives were merely useful.
Jesus tells in today’s gospel: I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus, not only does he ask us to follow God’s commandments; he also asks us to teach others to do the same. He says that whoever breaks one of the least of the commandments of God and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But, whoever obeys and teaches the commandments will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, Jesus is asking us to not only obey God’s commands, but to teach others to obey them as well. Now, when we hear this command of Jesus to teach others, we should not imagine that Christ is asking us to obtain a theological degree or become a classroom catechist. We are to teach others to obey God’s commands by the example of our lives.
We are always teaching by the way that we live. Either teaching people to follow God’s commandments or teaching them to break them. We are either showing the people in our family, at work, at school, in our neighborhood how to live well, or how to make our lives a disaster. Today, then, it is appropriate to be thankful for the people in our lives whose love has taught us how to live well. It is also right to re-double our own efforts to be the best example we can be to others. Because if we obey the commandments of God and teach others how to obey them, we will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Well, most of us can say, I have followed the 10 commandments of the Lord. I am regular to church, not cheated or killed anyone or involved in adulterous act. But what about our venial sins? Here is a small story.
Two sinners visited a holy man and asked his advice. “We have done wrong,” they said, “And our consciences are troubled. What must we do to be forgiven?” “Tell me of your wrongdoing, my sons,” said the holy man. The first man said, “I committed a great and grievous sin.” The second man said: “I have done some small things, nothing much to worry about.”
“Okay, go and bring me a stone for each sin,” said the holy man. The first man came back with a BIG STONE. The second man brought a bag of small stones. “Now”, said the holy man, “Go and put them back where you found them.” The first man lifted the rock and struggled back to the place where he had gotten it. The second man could not remember where half of the stones belonged, so he gave up, it was too much like work.
“Sins are like these stones,” said the holy man. “If a man commits a great sin, it is like a heavy stone on his conscience, but with true sorrow, it is removed completely. But the man, who is constantly committing small sins which he knows to be wrong, gets hardened to them and feels no sorrow. So he remains a sinner,” continued the holy man.
‘So you see my sons, it is important to avoid little sins so well as big ones. Big sins and little sins are the same. They are still sins.” To be part of the Kingdom of God, your righteousness has to go beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 5:20): to go beyond the security of legalism to a deeper discernment of the plan of God; to go beyond the mere avoidance of gross crimes like murder, adultery, and breaking of oaths, to a deeper life of freedom from anger, lust and deceit. Embrace the plan of God, be part of the Kingdom!