In proclaiming about the deeper meaning of the Ten Commandments, Jesus in today’s Gospel asserted, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” As such Jesus was challenging His disciples that all relationships have to be wholesome and wholehearted in commitment. Otherwise, we will develop attitudes and behaviour that will lead us to the sins that divide and eventually destroy relationships like: adultery, condemnation of others, murder and dishonest dealings.
The context of Jesus challenges was that the scribes and Pharisees were putting too much stress on the external observances of the Law of Moses. Jesus affirmed that He is not abolishing the Ten Commandments. Instead, He is challenging His believers and followers to live the Ten Commandments more perfectly and more sincerely as He the Messiah will proclaim. Moreover, what matters more is that we obey the Laws of God because we love God and not because we fear being punished by Him.
It is in this sense that Jesus proclaimed that He did not come to abolish the old law of Moses, but have come to deepen and give it a new life. And this “new life” is found in His teachings of the Good News of Salvation, that will bring liberation and eternal life to all who believe in Him.
While you and I try to live the Good News of Jesus, and so do all Christian believers, many who are not able to live the wholesome life of the committed love in their vocations and relationships, often end up blaming the Church for being too rigid in its moral demands and even blaming God for the evil that exists in the world. Many who cannot remain faithful have even held the view that if God exists and yet, there is so much violence and evil in the world, then either God does not care or He is not worth believing in and His teachings not worth following. And, if God truly cares for me, then my marriage should not have broken up and my spouse would not have committed the adultery and my children and I would not have to go through so much pain.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, such ways of thinking is not uncommon when people are hurting deeply in their relationships. It is understandable that when we suffering much over time, we have the tendency to get angry with people; we end up blaming God instead of looking into our own hearts to search for the God of Compassion who is still present to us in our suffering, and who indeed still loves us deeply, and in fact, even more so, when we are helpless and are in pain and suffering.
There is a story of a professor asking his students, "Did God create everything that exists?" A student bravely replied, "Yes, He did!" You mean, you really believe that God created everything? The professor asked. "Yes sir", the student replied. The professor answered, "If God created everything, then God also created evil since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are then God is evil". The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor was quite pleased with himself and boasted to the rest of the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith and the Church does not have the Truth about God because clearly, God does not exist!
Another student then raised his hand and asked, "Professor does cold exist?" What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold before? The other students snickered at the young man's question. The young man then replied, "In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Absolute zero (- 460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat."
The student persisted and continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?" The professor responded, "Of course it does." The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. We can study about light, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton's prism to break white light into colours to study the various wavelengths of each colour. But, you cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present."
Finally the young man asked yet another question, "Sir, does evil exist?" Now uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil."
To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil.Evil is not like faith or love that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when God's love is absent in a person’s heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light." The professor sat down and could no longer answer the student’s questions or refute his statements of fact. The young man's name is Albert Einstein.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, if our hearts are not in the right place, like the professor, our minds will be distorted. If we do not love God deeply and personally enough, then we will be constantly questioning God’s Goodness and Love. And, if we are not humble enough to admit our faults and sinfulness, then we will continue to justify our sinful attitudes and behaviour and continue to blame others, the Church and even God for our sinfulness especially our pride.
However, if we want to live the Gospel of Christ more wholeheartedly then, Jesus in today’s Gospel would tell us that avoiding murder is not enough; the true Christian must remove any inclinations to murder by building up true, brotherly love for all peoples in his heart.
As for calling our brothers, “a fool or renegade” we must not only not injure our neighbour or fellowman in his person, or in his character, but we must be ever ready to help him and prevent injury to him, whenever and wherever we can.
We must not only not commit adultery, but must also develop a Christian respect and esteem for purity; the virtue which will preserve us not only from adultery but even from thoughts of adultery, or any other abuse of the sexual gifts that God has given us for His sublime purpose.
And as for taking oaths and swearing in a contract or commitment, we must be truthful always, and be a man of our word. This virtue is not only necessary for our salvation, but is the basis of good and trustful relationships in a civilized society.
Finally, let us then remind ourselves that, if we truly want to live an authentic life of deepening our relationship with Jesus, as our Lord and Saviour, then all our thoughts, words, deeds and our daily living have to come from a heart that is sincere in wanting to Love God more personally and intimately.
Keeping the Ten Commandments is our way of expressing our sincerity of loving God. And just as our love for God is shown and proven through our true love for our neighbour, so also can we see that the last seven of the Ten Commandments are rightly about loving our neighbours. And it is only by fulfilling these seven commandments can we claim any credibility and fulfilment of the first three Commandments that tells us how we must Love God with our whole heart, soul and mind.
Thus, we now understand more clearly, why Jesus in today’s Gospel proclaims that “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there . . . first be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.”
Let us then pause for a few moments in silence and allow the Truth and challenges of the Gospel to seep into our hearts and transform us more fully . . . so that we will have a greater wisdom of knowing how to love God and our neighbours more wholeheartedly.(Ref.: adapted from: Catholic matters).
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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