Fifth Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Matt.5.v.20 Friday Meditation
GOSPEL Matt. 5:20-24
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to them of old: 'Thou shalt not kill.' And whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift."Friday Meditation
This Justice of ours, is of a triple or threefold kind, one towards God, another towards our Neighbor, another towards our selves.
That towards God is contained in the commandments of God & of the holy Church, whom God hath commanded us to obey as himself, and therefore the commandments of the Church are also the commandments of God, & these commandments God giveth us for his service, not that he hath any need of our service, but because we have need thereof, that doing him service, we may thereby work our salvation, which working our salvation is called our justice to God, because our souls being his, by the right of creation, conservation, redemption, vocation, we just render them to him; and he hath so united our souls and himself in the property thereof, that we cannot hurt our souls, but we wrong him, nor wrong him but we must also wrong our own souls; and this union or knot of mutual love God hath vouchsafed to make between him, and us, not for any need he hath of our souls more then he hath of our souls.
Our Justice towards our neighbor is comprised in our justice to God: for as we cannot offend a father but we offend his child thereby, who is a portion of his father; nor the child but we offend the father, they being united together naturally, by a most strong knot of mutual love; so Almighty God, who is the God of all Paternity, as St.Paul affrimeth, vouchsafe to make himself our Father, and us his adopted children, & biddeth us when we ask any thing of him, especially to call him father, saying Our father which art in heaven &c. to stir us up to pray with confidence that he will give his children what they ask,and therefore we cannot offend our neighbor in any thing, he being the child of God, but we offend God; neither can we offend God, but we offend our neighbor being the child of God, if it be known unto him; and indeed if we have the true spirit of children, we shall truly grieve at the offense of God in others,a s well as in ourselves.
Yea & if our neighbor offend us, because he cannot offend us but he also offendeth God, we should grieve more at it, as it is the offence of God, then our own.
We see that for the better defense of a city there is not only a string wall, but a rampier within it, & a great ditch without, a triple defense.
Our Savior Christ here in this Gospel, to show his great love unto man defendeth his life with a triple defense. He doth not only forbid us to kill our brother, but to secure his life the more,he forbiddeth us under a certain punishment, to be so much as angry with him, and if we transgress that, he forbiddeth us yet to utter our anger by any muttering word or outward sign for so Raca, doth signify, and this he forbiddeth under a greater punishment then the first.
And if we transgress this also,he forbiddeth us yet to show our anger in plain terms, as to call him fool, or the like, & that under the punishment of hell fire: behold here a strong triple defense of our neighbors life, that we do not violate our justice towards our neighbor; Nay God would have us prefer our justice toward our neighbor before Justice to himself, for he biddeth us, if we be to offer any oblation to him at the Altar, and remember our neighbor hath any thing against us, to leave offering before the altar ;and go first and be reconciled to our neighbor,and then come and offer our oblation, at the altar; in which words we may also learn this golden lesson, that he who hath received the wrong,is counseled here to go to him that hath done it,and be reconciled unto him,not expecting that he should come first that hath done the wrong.
Thus doth St.John Chrysostom expound these words, and addeth this noble exhortation: Expect not, Christians, I beseech thee, that thy brother should ask pardon of thee, but invite him: Hye thee to prevent thy enemy, unto friendship with thee, least peradventure thou being slack, he prevent thee to ask it first, and so snatch the merit out of thy hand.
Lastly concerning our justice to our selves,we seldom offend in not giving our selves our due, but rather in giving our selves too much, out of our over great sensuality & carnal love of our selves. Those religious men of the order the Carthusians, do voluntary vow never to eat flesh though it would save their lives,and yet do not only perform their justice to themselves sufficiently thereby, but do a work of perfection: but many think they perform not their justice to their bodies, unless they eat flesh upon prohibited days, yea even the holy time of Lent, to preserve their health,or to prevent sickness, yea and for less matters as to preserve their beauty, complexion,or the like.St Paul telleth us, we are seldom debtors to our flesh, but to our souls too to much.