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More Notes for Trinity 6 – Matthew 5:20-26

by pastorjuhl ~ July 13th, 2009

Pius Parsch, “The Church’s Year of Grace”

Today the Church endeavors to cast a dual bond about her children: the bond of the love of God and the bond of the love of neighbor. We ought constitute a community welded into unity through the divine life of grace in Christ and through the love of neighbor among the separate members. It is the will of Christ that we work out our salvation not as isolated individuals but rather in communion with the great family of the Church. Virtue is perfected by contracts with others. We form one Body, and as members of this Body we mutually aid one another. But we form not only that one great community, the catholic Church; we should also feel ourselves as part of the smaller unit, the parish. From such awareness the finest stimuli toward both personal and social virtue can arise. We Christians ought pray in common, sacrifice in common; we ought afford mutual edification, having regard for one another, care for one another (4:64-65).

Dom Prosper Gueranger, “The Liturgical Year”

The Gospel is filled with the woes uttered by our Lord against these blind guides, who taught the souls they professed to direct how best to smother law and justice and love under the outward cover of the letter. Jesus never lost an opportunity of denouncing and castigating and  holding up to execration, those hypocritical scribes and pharisees who took such pains to be ever cleaning the outside of the dish, but within were full of impurity and murder and rapine (11:145).

Church Fathers

The righteousness of the Pharisees is, that they shall not kill; the righteousness of those who are destined to enter into the kingdom of God, that they be not angry without a cause. The least commandment, therefore, is not to kill; and whosoever shall break that, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall fulfill that commandment not to kill will not, as a necessary consequence, be great and meet for the kingdom of heaven, but yet he ascends a certain step. He will be perfected, however, if he be not angry without a cause; and if he shall do this, he will be much further removed from murder. For this reason he who teaches that we should not be angry does not break the law not to kill, but rather fulfills it; so that we preserve our innocence both outwardly when we do not kill, and in heart when we are not angry (Augustine, “Sermon on the Mount” NPNF 1:6:11).

And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, confess your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. And let no man, having his dispute with his fellow, join your assembly until they have been reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be defiled (Didache 14:2).

David P. Scaer

The purpose of this pericope is not to frighten the hearer into fear of God’s severe law, but to impress upon him the necessity of making reconciliation in the community of Jesus with a grieved brother. Thus the center of the pericope is the command to make reconciliation with the brother, even if one is in the middle of performing his religious duties. The breaking of fellowship and restoration by reconciliation in the early church was done in the context of the eucharistic celebration. (“Sermon on the Mount”, p. 108)

The phrase “without cause” does not belong to the original reading. Even if there is a cause for anger, anger must be put aside among the followers of Jesus. There is no cause for anger. Though anger is the prerogative of God alone, in His work of reconciliation in Jesus He has set aside this anger. This makes the offense of anger even more repugnant. By becoming angry the one who claims to belong to Jesus and to know His mind takes an attitude diametrically opposed to God, who is no longer angry. The refusal to be reconciled is the sign that the person no longer belongs to Jesus and from God’s point of view is no longer a member of the community (“Sermon on the Mount”, p. 108-109).

The concept of debt owed and debt paid reaches its culmination in the words of Jesus that He came to serve by offering His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28), i.e., the community. Refusing to forgive another member of the community becomes more onerous, since the community has its origin in the redemption of Jesus whose death remains its constitutive authority (“Sermon on the Mount”, p. 111).

Gift and altar are liturgical words…. Before receiving the Sacrament, those with whom God is at peace must make peace with one another. God reserves the right to be angry with those who show that they have rejected His reconciliation in Jesus; He has not assigned that right to others. Thus dire consequences await those who harbor anger in their hearts and cannot forgive. Unwillingness to make peace with others lands offenders in prison, where they remain  until their debt is paid (“Discourses in Matthew”, p. 220-221).

Blessed Martin Luther’s House Postils

The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees consisted in this: as long as they did not physically kill anyone, they felt they had kept the 5th commandment. This is the kind of holiness the pope and his colleagues also have…. This is the kind of love according to which we are wont to say, “I am very willing to forgive him, but I can’t forget what he did.”

Christian love ought be so upright that one not only shows himself outwardly to be loving but also rids his heart of hatred and ill will. For if a person has wholeheartedly forgiven another, it cannot be any other way than that he must also forget anger…. For flesh and blood are so constituted that they do not dispel rancor from the heart but always look for occasion and opportunity to take vengeance. That’s why the ever prevailing thinking in the world is: He has indeed forgiven me; but who knows whether he has also forgotten? But this is not the way Christians ought to think and live. They should be mindful of the fact that our heavenly Father, whom we all have offended and angered, forgives us all our sins and transgressions. He says, “I will remember their sin no more.” And He lives up to what He says and treats us so graciously that we must admit that He has also forgiven. So should we.

Bible Verses to Remember

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:23-25).

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit (James 2:15-16)?

“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath (Ephesians 4:26).

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20)?

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