Gospel Reflection – Friday, February 23, 2024 – Matthew 5,20-26 – Catholic Bible

First Reading (Ez 18,21-28)

Reading from the Prophecy of Ezekiel.

Thus says the Lord: “If the wicked person repents of all the sins committed, keeps all my commandments, and practices righteousness and justice, he will surely live and not die. None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He will live because of the righteousness he has practiced.

Do I take pleasure in the death of the wicked? — says the Lord God. Do I not rather desire that he turn from his evil ways and live? But if the righteous person turns away from his righteousness and commits evil, imitating all the abominable practices of the wicked, can he do that and live?

The righteousness he has practiced will not be remembered. Because of the infidelity and the sin he has committed, he will die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’

Listen, O house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, is it your own ways that are unfair? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness, commits evil, and dies, it is because of the evil he has committed that he will die. But if the wicked person turns away from the evil he has committed and observes righteousness and justice, he will preserve his life. By turning away from all the sins he has committed, he will surely live; he will not die”.

– Word of the Lord.

– Thanks be to God.

Gospel (Mt 5:20-26)

— PROCLAMATION of the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew.

— Glory to you, Lord!

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”

— The Gospel of the Lord.

— Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflecting the Word of God

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today, I want to begin our reflection with a question: have you ever felt lost in the midst of a maze? Imagine yourselves walking through narrow corridors, not knowing which direction to take, unable to see the way out. The feeling of confusion and disorientation can be overwhelming. But deep in our hearts, we all desire to find the right path, the right answer, the truth that sets us free.

In the biblical passages we have just heard, we find a guiding light for our lives, like a shining beacon directing us through the maze of human existence. In the First Reading, from the prophet Ezekiel, we are invited to reflect on God’s justice and mercy. He tells us that if a sinner repents and turns away from their evil ways, they will find forgiveness and eternal life.

This is a message of hope and renewal, inviting us to abandon the paths of sin and turn back to God. It is an invitation to break free from the destructive patterns that bind us and distance us from God’s love. And it is a call to conversion, to a change of heart and mind, that allows us to experience the fullness of life in God.

But how can we respond to this call? How can we find the right path, the true justice that God calls us to live? This is where the passage from the Gospel of Matthew offers us clear guidance. Jesus tells us that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

This statement by Jesus may surprise us. After all, the scribes and Pharisees were known for their strict adherence to the law and religious tradition. However, Jesus reminds us that the justice he calls us to live goes beyond mere external observance of the law. He invites us to a righteousness that comes from the heart, that transforms our attitudes, intentions, and relationships.

In other words, Jesus is calling us to go beyond superficial compliance with religious rules and regulations. He calls us to a justice that goes beyond appearances and penetrates to the core of our souls. He invites us to love our brothers and sisters, to seek reconciliation, to forgive, and to be merciful.

To illustrate this message, I want to share with you a story that helps us understand what it means to live a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. It is the story of a man named Samuel and his friend John.

Samuel and John had been neighbors for many years. They used to work together in their gardens, sharing stories and laughter. But one day, a quarrel arose between them. A misunderstood word, an offensive gesture, and years of friendship dissolved into anger and resentment.

Months passed, and Samuel and John continued to live side by side, but their hearts were separated by a wall of bitterness. They avoided any contact, exchanging hostile glances when they crossed paths.

Until one day, Samuel heard a sermon about forgiveness and reconciliation. He was touched by the message and realized that he needed to act. He knew it was time to seek the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.

So, Samuel decided to take the first step. He went to John’s house and sincerely apologized. He acknowledged his mistakes and expressed the desire to restore their friendship. At first, John hesitated, but gradually, the barrier between them began to crumble. They talked, they cried, and they forgave each other.

Samuel and John discovered that true justice is not just about obeying external rules, but about cultivating relationships of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. They experienced in their own lives the mercy of God, which enabled them to overcome division and restore their friendship.

This story reminds us that God’s justice is a justice of love and mercy. It calls us to look beyond appearances and to seek true inner transformation. The biblical passage challenges us to examine our hearts, to identify the areas where we need conversion, and to take concrete steps towards reconciliation and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters, each of us has our own “Samuel” and “John” in our lives. It may be a family member we haven’t spoken to in years, a friend who has deeply hurt us, or even ourselves, trapped in resentments and self-criticism. God calls us to seek the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, to seek reconciliation and forgiveness.

And how can we do that? Here are some practical guidelines for applying the lessons of these biblical passages in our daily lives:

First, stop and reflect. Take time to examine your heart and identify the areas where you need healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Acknowledge your own weaknesses and limitations, and be open to change.

Second, be courageous to take the first step. If there is someone you need to reconcile with, take the initiative. Seek dialogue, apologize, and be open to forgiveness. Remember that forgiveness does not mean ignoring or accepting harmful behavior, but rather freeing yourself from the burden of resentment and paving the way for healing.

Third, cultivate healthy relationships. Seek to build relationships based on love, compassion, and mutual respect. Be willing to listen, to understand others’ perspectives, and to seek peaceful solutions to conflicts.

Fourth, seek reconciliation with yourself. Often, we are our own worst critics and carry the burden of self-criticism and lack of forgiveness towards ourselves. Allow yourself to be human, with all your flaws and imperfections. Love yourself and forgive yourself, just as God loves us and forgives us.

Fifth, stand firm in the practice of justice and mercy. Remember that following Jesus involves living a life of love and service to others. Look for opportunities to help the needy, to be an agent of change in your community, and to promote justice in all areas of your life.

Dear brothers and sisters, the biblical passages from the First Reading and the Gospel challenge us to seek a justice that goes beyond appearances and touches the heart. They invite us to be instruments of reconciliation, forgiveness, and love in a world often marked by division and hatred.

May we accept this call with open hearts, trusting in the grace and transforming power of God. May we be agents of change in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. And may we, together, build a world where the justice and mercy of God are tangible and visible to all.

May God bless us and guide us on our journey of seeking true justice. May He give us courage, wisdom, and compassion to live according to the teachings of Scripture. And may His love and grace inspire us to be bright lights in the darkness of the world.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.