« You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times… But I say to you… » (Matthew 5:21a.22a)
In the Sermon on the Mount as retold by Matthew, Jesus emphasizes the contrast between the traditions received from the scribes and his own teaching. As we read this sermon, we could think that Jesus is simply inviting his listeners to aim higher, to practise their religion more fervently. However, we would be mistaken. Jesus invites us instead to reconsider our whole life in the light of the Father’s merciful love for his children. Jesus is not primarily concerned with the quality of our religious “practise,” but with the transformation of our hearts brought about by an experience of ongoing relationship with him.
I hear Catholic leaders express their fear that, because of this lockdown, people might get used to not practising their religion. They wonder if there will be fewer people at church once the pandemic is over. It’s possible. But is this the real question? For Jesus, religious practice is secondary in view of the relationship he calls me to live with him. From that relationship will flow a renewed and committed religious practice that can give meaning to my life.
Abba, Father, I have difficulty “practising” my religion during this confinement. But perhaps this is the opportunity to get to the heart of the question, to rediscover your Son Jesus living in me. Fill me with your Spirit so that I might respond whole-heartedly to his love, a love that changes everything.Amen.