After Jesus said that He has come to fulfill the Law and not abolish it in yesterday’s Gospel, He goes on to point out concrete cases. The first refers to the command “you should not kill.”
One evening a TV executive was eating dinner with his family. During the meal, their topic of conversation centered on a certain disagreement that had arisen between him and a fellow worker. His small son listened for a while and then interjected, “Why don’t you kill him, daddy?” the family members told him that was a terrible thing to say. The little boy replied, “That’s what they do on television.” Had this youngster been schooled as much in today’s Gospel as he had been in television, he would have suggested, “Why don’t you forgive him, daddy?”
Well, perhaps we are not like this little boy with our speech, but our thoughts sometimes may be similar. To fully observe this commandment, it is not enough to not commit murder. There are many other ways to “kill.”
Jesus says that one should not do any harm to the brother, not get angry with the other, or even insult him. Why are we not more forgiving? For Jesus, love, forgiveness, and reconciliation are more important than the offerings that are brought to the temple. In other words, all the rites, ceremonies and devotions are not worthy if I am not at peace with others.
We can find the clue at the beginning of today’s Gospel: “If the way of acting does not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees …” These groups were concerned about strict compliance with the Law. Jesus, on the other hand, invites us to live according to the spirit of the law. For Him, the disciples need to understand that justice has to go further, because the higher Law is love.
Let us pray that we may not fall into the trap of empty legalism and into the den of empty observance. Our righteousness should depend not on how best we observe laws, but how best we keep the spirit of it.