In today's Gospel, Jesus raises the bar. The Ten Commandments are not the height to which we aspire. They are the bare minimum to which we may not pass. Jesus calls us to something more. Actually in order to enter heaven we are called to surpass the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. We are called to go to the internal root that causes us to sin. The Torah says, "whoever kills will be liable to judgement." Jesus says, "whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment."
Jesus asks us to look at our hearts. What is in there that leads us to want to break the Commandments? Is there resentment, or irrational anger, or greed, or lust in my heart? All vices lead us to sin and are strengthened when we do. In order to root them out, we need to practice the opposite virtues. Practicing virtue requires God's help, which we call grace. We must avail ourselves to the sacraments as often as possible. If we truly want to walk the path of holiness - we need Jesus in the Eucharist often, we need to go to confession to allow Jesus to root out the vices with which we struggle, and we need the grace of prayer that deepens our relationship with God.
All grace flows from the Passion, Death on the Cross, and Resurrection of Jesus (the Paschal Mystery). Preparing again to make the Paschal Mystery a deeper part of my life is the point of Lent. What can we do today to let Jesus root out the vices in our hearts through the Sacraments and Prayer? Beginning today - Daily Mass? A few weekly Masses? Weekly Confession? Daily Prayer? Weekly Fasting?
So many failed to believe in the miracles of Jesus. They continued to ask for signs. Jesus promises only this one sign, the sign of Jonah. Jonah was charged by God to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to a massive pagan city. He tries to run away from it but is swallowed by a large fish. Unlike the Disney version where he is camping out in there, the Scriptures point to the death of Jonah in the big fish. He is then spit out onto the beach and God tells him to arise (the same word for resurrection).
He rises after three days in the belly of the beast. He then goes throughout the pagan city of Nineveh preaching repentance, and they heed his preaching. The sign of Jonah promised by Jesus is that after three days in the belly of the beast of death Jesus too will rise. He rises to a new pitch of existence. His small group of followers begins to preach repentance to the world. In a very short period of time the pagan nations (the gentiles) come to faith in Jesus.
The greatest sign Jesus offered is the repentance and conversion of the world. There are over one billion Catholics in the world today and over two billion Christians. This is the sign of Jesus promises. To this day, when we speak of Him and His love others are drawn to Him. This is the sign that all Jesus said and did is true. Do we stake our lives on the reality of Jesus? Is He the center of our lives? This Lent surrender to Him and share the Good News with others.
Daily Lenten reflections by Father Browning.