Living the Gospel – February 16, 2020

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What’s in Your Heart?

The condition of our heart affects our very life; but the condition of our spiritual heart is even more important because it affects our soul and our relationship with the God who gave us life.

In today’s gospel, Matthew writes in order to help the communities of converted Jews overcome the criticism of those who accused them saying, “You are unfaithful to the Law of Moses.” Jesus himself had been accused of infidelity to the law, but he responded to his accusers saying: “I have not come to abolish the law, but to complete it!” Jesus taught that the traditional rules that were formed around God’s Commandments were only legitimate if they were practiced out of love. He taught us how to observe the Commandments of God in such a way that it will lead us to true peace and happiness as we live together in a loving community. He teaches us how to live with the Law of God written on our heart, for God the Father gave us the Commandments for the purpose of our welfare and happiness, not to lord it over others.

Jesus warned “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Now, the scribes had knowledge of the law and would write legal documents (marriage, divorce, inheritance, loans, mortgages, etc.) and the Pharisees were those who taught, interpreted, and imposed the law; but neither the scribes nor the Pharisees practiced the law of Love, rather they were selfindulgent and extortionists, whose hearts were hardened to their status and respect as leaders. They lay heavy burdens on the people but would do nothing to make the load lighter. Their own works were done to be observed by men rather than God and they clashed with Jesus as he pointed out that all of the law and the Prophets were summed up in the law of Love? Love turns the negative “Don’ts” into positive “Do’s.” Laws are written in the negative: “thou shall not…” Love is performed in the positive: as service, caring, helping. Take each Commandment and rewrite it in a positive way of action that conforms to an act of love. For instance “Thou shall not Kill” becomes “Go out of your way to help a wounded enemy.”

In October of 2019, a jury sentenced a former Dallas police officer to 10 years in prison for the shooting death of her unarmed neighbor in his home. Amber Guyger was convicted of murder the day before by the same jury in the death of Botham Jean. The sentence was met with boos and jeers by a crowd gathered outside the courtroom. But Jean’s younger brother, Brandt Jean, in a victim impact statement after the sentence, told Guyger he forgave her and loved her as he would any other person. He asked the judge if he could hug Guyger, and the two embraced as Guyger sobbed. This is the moment. A moment so very few have ever witnessed, the brother of a murder victim asking the judge to hug the person who took his brother’s life. Brandt Jean put into practice the Law of Love.