Gospel: Mt 5:20-26
Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you, if your sense of right and wrong is not keener than that of the Lawyers and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard, that it was said to our people in the past: Do not commit murder; anyone who murders will have to face trial. But now, I tell you: whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial. Whoever insults a brother or sister is liable, to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or sister “Fool!“ is liable, of being thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there, in front of the altar; go at once, and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God.
“Don’t forget this: be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There, you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.“
Murder Through Words
It is very rare that penitents confess “Bless me Father for I have sinned. I have murdered a person.“ Perhaps one may hear such a confession from prisoners convicted of murder but hardly from ordinary penitents lining up at a confession in a church. But then, consider what the Lord tells us in our Gospel of today! We must confess more often, “Father, I am guilty of the sin of murder for I have hurt people with my words.“
Jesus tells us today that we violate the 5th commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,“ more often than we think. When in anger we utter demeaning and hurting words we “kill“ our neighbor. We know very well how words can even be more damaging than physical injury. Physical injury on the body of your neighbor can heal over time. But the injury through harsh words can remain in the heart of the offended over many years! This reminds me of a beautiful poem by Longfellow:
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where’;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song,
from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.