Today’s gospel reading appears to be full of Jesus laying down the law and dispensing orders with dire consequences if not followed!
Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, 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 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 or sister will be liable to judgment.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. 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.
Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.'
Anything more is from the evil one.
But on reflecting further we actually come across what I would call Jesus’s insightful understanding of the human soul. Jesus knows that without clear guidance the people would be vulnerable to all kinds of difficulties and failings. They would be even more susceptible to judgment and self-righteous discrimination. He holds up the scribes and Pharisees as a group who think they have all the right answers rather than being upright and just.
I have been living and working in Guatemala now for over 29 years missioned and working with people with HIV and their families. These are a people who have been marginalized, judged, violated, murdered, isolated, and discriminated against in every area of their lives. Many Christian churches have refused to allow people with HIV or transgender people or gay people worship in their temples. They are vilified, called sinners and ‘deserving’ of the virus through their unacceptable behavior (according to the ‘righteous’ of Guatemala.)
Throughout my time here I have witnessed the strength and conviction of my fellow colleagues in our hospice to promote the YES as YES and NO as NO that Jesus calls us to practice. Our YES to caring for people with HIV and our NO to discrimination, isolation and mistreatment by family members, communities and neighbors.
More than ever in these chaotic times we are challenged to speak out our truth and stand firm on the side of justice and equality for all in creation.
Let us always strive to be people whom Jesus can rightly say…our YES means YES and our NO means NO. With faith and courage, we shall be the face of an integrated righteousness that surpasses all evil doing in the world.
Photo by Sr. Dee Smith of her work on a small-scale chicken project