Sometimes the Gospel just makes good common sense. Today, the Gospel expands on the Golden Rule, something we should all have learned when we were very little. As my grandmother used to say, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. But actually what Jesus is telling us today goes a bit deeper even than that. Jesus equates the hatred in our hearts with outright murder. The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes up this theme from this very Gospel reading: “Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. ‘But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.’” (CCC, 2303)
Today might be a good time for us to examine our consciences for sins against the fifth commandment. Jesus says that these include murder and abortion, certainly. But also hatred, vengeance and anger. This might be a good time for us to call to mind those we have yet to forgive, and to pray for the grace to forgive them. Or at least the grace to want to forgive them. This might be a good time for us to look deep within us and ferret out any traces of racism, which is simply hatred directed at a certain group or race. Casual racist jokes and stereotyping are evidence of a hatred that may be buried deep within us that comes out in inappropriate ways. Today’s Gospel even hints that gossip, backbiting, and sarcasm directed at a brother or sister in Christ is an attitude that detracts from the dignity of another’s life and has no place in the heart or mind of the disciple.
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says to us today. Our witness to the life and dignity of the human person must be absolutely above reproach, or our witness for life is a sham. And worse than that, we will have opted out of the Kingdom of heaven.