Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

What Jesus says about the Pharisees today is surprising. Normally, we are used to hearing how they are overly strict about following the Law–in today’s Gospel, it would seem that they are overly lax. We are to obey the whole Law, and even go beyond it, so that our “righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.” Not only shall we not kill, we shall not be angry with one another. Not only shall we not commit adultery, we shall not look with lust at one another. The Pharisees are strict about appearances–Jesus wants us to be strict about our hearts.

Jesus’ commandments are not for the faint of heart. Paul today likewise says that “we speak a wisdom to those who are mature.” With a small child, it is enough to make sure that they don’t hit, that they take turns, that they say sorry as needed, and other outward things. With an adult, more is expected. We hope that an adult will behave well even when no one is looking, and that the goodness they show on the outside matches their hearts. For an adult, unlike a child, we expect a certain level of virtue, and a greatness of heart.

Greatness of heart is what Jesus calls us to today. We know what we are supposed to do, and what other people ask of us. We know how to look good. But we are called to do more than put on a good show. God wants adults, with adult hearts. God wants us not just to act out the commandments, but to make them our way of life. And we are assured in Sirach that in a person’s choice between following the commandments or not, “whichever he chooses shall be given him.” God wants us to be great of heart, but He knows our weaknesses, and will help us to grow. God wants our hearts to be great, and will give us all we need to attain that greatness.

February 12th, 2017