Ezekiel 18:21-28
Matthew 5:20-26


Today’s texts reminded me of my former French professor who used to teach in English with French accents to accommodate students from America and Asia in the Roman context. Listening to him during my first few weeks in his class was overwhelming. One of his discussions fell with a French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, who said, “There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous.” The Prophet Ezekiel, too, in the first reading, presented us with two types of man: those who have done evil but genuinely repent afterwards, that man indeed be forgiven, but those who are righteous and abandon righteousness, that person will most certainly die.

In the Gospel, Jesus teaches the multitude to exceed beyond the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. During the time of Jesus, the Scribes were highly regarded as the most learned people well-versed in the Mosaic law and its interpretation, while the Pharisees were known for their strict adherence to religious observances. Thus, one may question the sense of righteousness that Jesus expects from his followers.

A few years ago, I visited a monastery in my hometown. There, I spent a few hours with them, sharing faith and life’s experiences, and ended up with some punch line jokes, which everybody burst into laughter. Among the stories, one seems to stand out to me. It was about two monks who were walking and had to cross a river. During their journey, they came across a young woman who was unable to cross the river by herself. The older monk, despite his vow not to touch a woman, without any hesitation, carried her across the river and set her down on the other side. After some time, the younger monk became agitated and asked the older monk why he had carried the woman. The older monk replied, “I set her down on the other side an hour ago. Why are you still carrying her.?”  

There are many instances in our lives when we follow the law and its prescribed behaviour, but it doesn’t come from a pure heart. Matthew expounds it more in the fifth commandment: “You shall not murder. Jesus wants to clarify the understanding of his audience and so with us, too, so as not to fall on the examples he underlines in the following verses, like name-calling or belittling behaviours towards those whom we consider other than us.  But God knows our weaknesses and understands our complexity; thus, He reminds us to purify our inner motives, encourages us to reconcile with those we still bear hatred and grudges, and asks Him for the grace of forgiveness, integrity, reconciliation, and peace. With the psalmist, we pray, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.”

Sr Rosana Estoque CP is a Passionist Religious, and the Pastoral Associate at St.Brtigid’s Chruch, Marrickville.