The foremost duty of a Jew, as an individual believer and as a member of God’s chosen race, is to worship God. This most sacred duty has moved the Jews to establish a formal and elaborate form of worship enshrined in rituals and ceremonies dutifully observed. Sadly, the religious observance of the Jews led to formalism and separated love of God from love of neighbor.
Jesus points to a deeper meaning of the law by insisting that reconciliation with one’s brother or sister takes precedence over divine worship. He is teaching the Jews to deepen their religious observance and their fidelity to the commands of God by showing to them the link between worship to God and love of neighbor.
Jesus knows how disagreements can divide members of the family or community. Sometimes we reason that it is better not to stop relating to someone and keep our distance. Jesus reminds us that we cannot love God with a divided heart, one half filled with love for God and the other half full of anger towards our neighbor.
We may not be guilty of murder, but do we keep resentment and hatred in our hearts?
Gospel • MATTHEW 5:20-26
Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
“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 his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, 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 has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”