The pastor preached on the long form of the Sunday Gospel passage this past weekend. The overarching discussion was on making and keeping commitments. He mentioned the formula Jesus gives, “You have heard … But I say to you …” and urged consideration that this move us beyond legalism, beyond minimalism. The Lord is inviting us not to legal conformity, but to holiness.
This portion of that long (verses 17-47) Penance Lectionary passage illustrates this clearly:
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with (another)
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to (another), ‘Raqa,’
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother (or sister)
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother (or sister),
and then come and offer your gift.
This excerpt is often used to illustrate confession-before-Communion. And that’s an excellent principle. But the real conversion, the real act of holiness is not merely following the Church’s directive and pseudo-earning the “right” to approach the altar. It’s about a change of mind on the part of the believer, of cultivating the interior as a place of reconciliation and peace. Not about hiding from the world and putting on a false-face of virtue.