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?
"Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do."
These words above of Jesus give us the reason for His Incarnation. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son not to condemn the world but to save it through Him. There is no saving ourselves or pulling ourselves up by our boot straps when it comes to sin. I would say most of us recognize our powerlessness against our sins. They seem to rule our lives at times. When we misuse God's gift of freedom we become less free and more like a slave. If we cannot say no to something in our lives, especially when that something is sinful we are soul-sick and enslaved.
One of the most important principles of the spiritual life is to know that I am a sinner and in need of a Savior. Pop-psychology (in no way am I diminishing good psychology and its usefulness) says I'm fine, you're fine, we're all fine, but a glance around our world, heck around our immediate surroundings, points to another reality - the biblical reality. It is a strength, not a weakness to recognize ourself as a sinner. It is to truly live in reality. If our leg is broken pretending it is not does not change the reality. The same goes for sin, pretending we are not sinners changes nothing. Admitting that we are has the potential to change everything.
The Catholic faith helps us recognize the truth of who we are. The sooner we recognize that we are sinners and in need of a savior, the sooner we can experience the healing of the Divine Physician.
This Lent go to confession, no matter how long it has been. Do not be afraid the Divine Physician wants to heal you, to set you free to be truly who you were made to be.
Daily Lenten reflections by Father Browning.