Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:20)
Last Wednesday I gave the parents in our Religious Program a preview on the new English translation of the Order of Penance. We are authorized to use this on this coming Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023, and all parishes in the United States of America are obligated to use it on April 16, 2023, Divine Mercy Sunday. There was a question: what is a good confession? The following was my response:
According to the Order of Penance, there are three actions from penitents: contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Regarding the first, the most important action from the penitents, there are distinctions: the sorrow over hurting the one we love (called perfect contrition) and sorrow over getting caught or receiving the punishment that comes because of our offenses (imperfect contrition). We should ask God to help us achieve that perfect contrition in which we are truly sorry for having wounded the God who loves us and whom we should love in return. This is the first action we can do to insure a good confession.
The perfect of contrition, the sorrow for sins that are motivated from our heart is the key for us to understand what Jesus is asking his disciples today: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20). The scribes and Pharisees were the spiritual heavyweights of their day. They checked all the boxes when it came to the proper exercise of the religious practices required of them. Yet our Lord says it wasn’t enough. Their external observance of the law is like an imperfect act of contrition (avoid getting caught or receiving punishment as a result of sin). Jesus wishes his disciples to keep the commandments because their true conversion of heart. Jesus gave us a couple of examples to illustrate the point of not only external observance, but a disposition of heart is needed to be his disciple and thus be destined for the kingdom of heaven.
Let us ponder one example: The Lord quoted one of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not commit adultery” (Mt 5:27). He then explained the disposition of the purity of heart that is needed to be his disciple: “But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28). If we have a pure heart which truly acknowledges the human being before us as the “image and likeness of God” (Gn 1:26-27) then we should not look “at a woman with lust.” That means she should not be regarded as an object for our gratification. This is the meaning of “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).
Let us pray that our heart has the right disposition to God so that we are destined for the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
Scriptural Readings: Reading 1 Sir 15:15-20; Responsorial Psalm Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; Reading 2 1 Cor 2:6-10; Alleluia cF. mt 11:25; Gospel Mt 5:17-37