Anointed with power by the Holy Spirit, Jesus sits once again in our midst, as he is in the habit of doing every weekend, and begins to teach us with unmatched authority about what the Holy Spirit does in those who dare to open their minds and hearts to his action. He speaks at length with examples that are plain, ordinary, familiar, and, therefore too direct and too penetrating to be dismissed without inner struggle. As he teaches about the action of the Holy Spirit in minds and hearts that are receptive, we begin to regret the many opportunities we missed to be transformed and have our mindset overhauled by his divine wind and fire.
“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”
The Spirit of love reminds sincere listeners that all of God’s laws manifest his infinite love and, therefore, that such love, found even in the minutiae of divine laws, calls for our availability for loving service in the little things of daily life.
“Nothing is too small a thing if it is done with love.” This phrase is attributed (among others enlightened by the Spirit of love) to Chiara Lubich, the foundress of the Focolare Movement. Applying this measuring stick to our inner disposition, we are forced, right away, to wonder where we fall between the two extremes of the least and the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.”
This phrase is like a sword penetrating our soul and exposing the many times in which we justify our refusal to help our neighbor in joyous love, by hiding behind a convenient law. It also unmasks all efforts to appear generous, open-minded, magnanimous, irreproachable, even one inevitably headed for … sainthood without thinking that we cannot fool the One who probes minds and hearts. Hence, we might have to admit that very seldom, if ever, we let the Holy Spirit spur us on to love as Jesus has loved us, to the very limit of total self-immolation.
“But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”
At first, we think that we can endure this scrutiny unscathed because we recall that Jesus himself got very angry and violent. (see John 2:15; Matthew 23:13-29; Luke 19:46) However, we cannot forget that Jesus was fully justified in displaying his anger and acting violently because he was condemning the wrong inner disposition of those who did not give glory and praise to God as due to him.
Even now, Jesus cannot ignore the wrong vertical relationship with God the Father. However, horizontally, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all of God’s children by adoption so that they may overcome their many human miseries and flaws and be striving for holiness, for becoming more Christ-like with every passing day. Anger displayed horizontally towards anyone beset with weaknesses and sins betrays lack of self-knowledge, disregard for truthfulness and fairness; and also overlooks the humbling fact that we are all, without exception, in constant need of God’s mercy.
“Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
The echo of this “bomb” exploding in our minds should prompt us to beg the Spirit of truth and light to open our eyes and shed his light in the recesses of our hearts! This “bomb” should give us pause: suddenly we are facing the scary chance that we might have lived good chunks of our life convinced that we were correct, that our way of thinking, talking and acting was irreprehensible and that, thus, we were entitled to look down, criticize, judge and even… condemn others.
But Jesus warns us that God, the just judge, is about to side with our opponents, with those whom we looked down upon, criticized, judged and condemned…We need, at once, the Spirit of healing and forgiveness to come to our aid.
“But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The Spirit of humility and resolve should have the easiest time in leading us to own up to this humbling reality. And, in the same sweeping motion of divine power, the Holy Spirit will fill us with enough resolve to be able to ready ourselves for the most extreme sacrifices in order to avoid winding up into the unquenchable fire of Gehenna.
Matthew 5:32 “But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
How much pain, devastation and losses are caused by hardness of heart which is, always, without exception, born of innate hubris! Broken families, broken vows, broken lives are not what the Spirit of reconciliation, patient endurance, forgiveness wants for anyone. Hence, if we detect that hardness of heart has obscured our vision of life as a community of frail, wounded people, we shall call upon the Holy Spirit to soften them and make them humble and capable of enduring a lot out of love for Jesus.
Matthew 5:37 “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”
Jesus’ lesson ends with something very useful in our community of frail, wounded believers. The Spirit of truthfulness shall convince us to conduct ourselves in the freedom that truthfulness affords so generously. Truthfulness does not need a lot of words to assert itself; and it finds posturing, faking, pretending, and presuming not only unnecessary but also counterproductive.
So, thank you, Jesus, for today’s lesson and come, Holy Spirit, come and take hold of our minds and hearts—for good.