Catholic Men’s Lenten Gospel Devotional – 1st Week of Lent – Friday – Matt 5:20-26
Continuing with the Sermon on the Mount, having absolutely affirmed the 10 Commandments, Christ now raises the bar even higher. Christ asserts that men who are allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven must possess a righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees’ (Matt 5:17-19) ; this is a huge hurdle for, despite being misguided in some ways, the Pharisees loved God deeply and sought to live with deep daily piety.
With the astounding assertion He has the authority to modify the 1200-year-old Law given by Moses, Christ expands the 5th Commandment (Thou shall not kill) to include even inner feelings of anger in the definition of “kill.” In the Old Testament, laws were laid down to hold society together; in the New Covenant, Christ is perfecting the Law to draw men to inner holiness.
Christ affirms that men are judged and the reality of Hell with a reference to Gehenna, a squalid perpetually burning trash dump near Jerusalem where child sacrifice was practiced in earlier days. He likens Judgment to the harsh treatment of prison guards and judges and being cast violently into prison. To avoid being condemned to Hell for the sin of anger, Christ urges men to reconcile with an aggrieved brother and to go to the altar to reconcile with God, a prefigurement of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
1) With God from the beginning, Christ is the architect of Salvation History and He enters history to perfect that law He gave to Moses. Reflect on the astounding way that Christ is shaping His Creation over thousands of years.
2) Christ reaffirms absolute moral law of the 10 Commandments but expects men to go beyond outer conformity to inner holiness. During Lent, recommit yourself to the importance of the 10 Commandments (CCC 2052-2082) and pray for Christ to help you to always keep the 10 Commandments in mind.
3) While righteous anger can lead men to resist evil (CCC 1765) as Christ demonstrates at the clearing of the Temple (John 2:13-17), Christ warns men to be cautious about anger and to “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39). During Lent, take up the challenge to avoid the Deadly Sin/Vice of Unrighteous Anger (CCC 1866, 2262, 2302) and pray for Christ to help you to grow in patience and gentleness through the Heavenly Virtue of Meekness.