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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 5, 20-26

'For I tell you, if your uprightness does not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of Heaven.

'You have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You shall not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court.

But I say this to you, anyone who is angry with a brother will answer for it before the court; anyone who calls a brother "Fool" will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and anyone who calls him "Traitor" will answer for it in hell fire.

So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,

leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.

Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.

In truth I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jesus has just spoken about the fulfilment of the law, not its abolition. And to fulfil the law means to grasp within its words the thoughts and even the heart of God, his deepest will. Jesus - we are at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount - encourages the disciples to gain a deep understanding of the meaning of righteousness. And he says to his disciples: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” In brief, to be as righteous as the Pharisees means not being righteous at all. Everything they teach and do, despite their commitment, is not enough. The disciples must do more, because that it was God demands. It is not enough to be egalitarian on the outside - which would be impossible. We must have the same limitless love that God has for his children. God’s righteousness saves, it does not condemn. It means loving without limits, not dividing, even in equal measure. This way of thinking about righteousness is needed to enter the kingdom of heaven. And if this seems too difficult to the disciples, or even impossible, in the words that follow Jesus shows the way to go. They are statements that no one had ever dared to speak the way Jesus spoke them, and still no one hears them today if not in the Gospel. The first point is taken from the fifth commandment: “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’...but I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement.” Jesus is not proposing a new level of hair-splitting (as in the two examples of those who call their brother or sister “stupid” or “crazy”), or a new juridical procedure; he is proposing a new way of understanding relationships between people: it is love that counts. That is what it means to fulfil the law. We have to move from negative precepts to the positivity of friendship. Love has such a high value that, if it is lacking, it requires to stop the highest act of worship. Jesus says: “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” “Mercy” is worth more than “sacrifice;” worship, that is, relationship with God, cannot be separated from our relationship with men and women. This is true even in the context of the countless quarrels that arise among men and women. Jesus uses the example of a debt to pay or credit to give. And he urges his listeners to come to an agreement without taking the matter before a judge. It is obvious that this requires us to prize above all else brotherhood and love for others; the latter ones push back our selfish instincts, which drive us to satisfying our ego at all costs and pursue our own interest, an they grow love for others and most of all the superiority of reconciliation over indifference and conflict.

Memory of the Church