Friday of the First Week of Lent

(Mt 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.
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.”

Murder Through Words

It is very rare that penitents confess “Bless me Father for I have sinned. I have murder 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 remainds me of a beautiful poem by Longfellow:

I shot an arrow in the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it few, 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.



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