Dearly beloved all,
We have reached to the seventh Sunday after the feast of
Holy Cross. Noticeably, this Sunday is the last of Sundays in the Liturgical
Calendar as well for this year. Next Sunday is Koodosh Etho, Sanctification of
the Church, the Liturgical New Year. In other words, we have reached to the
point of reflections and retrospections on the passing year and planning plus
resolutions for the New Year!
For this Sunday, the Holy Church has decided that we hear
from the Gospel according to St. Matthew 5:22-26. Many interesting ideas are popping out from
this text and they are utterly thought provocative. Let us try to count some of them here below.
5:22 “You shall not murder as it had been said to
the old. Those who murder, will be in danger of judgment.”
is quoting here from two portions, namely, Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17,
the sixth commandment. On both places it is mentioned as not to kill or murder.
One needs to understand also that we
come across several occasions in the OT that God directs Israelites to put
people to death. For instance, “The man who commits adultery
with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his
neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death”
(Leviticus 20:10). Then how do sixth
commandment and God’s directions at other places become coherent? The answer is that for both contexts the verbs
used are different and the contexts are different. One is ratsakh (Exodus 20:13), and the other is mawth (Leviticus 20:10). Ratsakh means murder and mawth
means to put to death. The distinction between these two words is in the
following way: When one premeditates and kills another person, a fellow among
one’s own community, namely one’s own brother or sister, it becomes ratsakh.
Anybody is put to death due to violation
of moral directives like in Leviticus 20:10 or one acting against the will of
God. In the Old Testament thinking
pattern, the gentiles, who attack the children of Israel, when get killed are
being put to death. On such occasions
the verb becomes mawth.
In the context of this Gospel portion Jesus
is referring to the Decalogue and it means the first idea, namely, premeditated
manslaughter. It attracts punishment and
that was judgment, clarifies the Lord. It is plain, unequivocal and simple,
killing or murdering another brother or sister, whatever degree may it be, is
Jesus, however, is revising the whole
concept and says, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother
without a cause shall be in danger of judgment.” One can notice the difference here, namely,
the dispassionate ‘you shall not murder’ gets changed to a very personal to ‘angry
without cause with his brother’. Although
the commandment in Decalogue was dispassionate in the first instance, it was
meant in the context of one person killing another brother or fraternal
Israelite. The whole concept gains a totally different dimension here. Being
angry without cause, says Jesus, was equivalent to killing or murdering another
brother. It is here, that we need to pay our attention a little more.
We can easily understand it that when the
Decalogue was promulgated, humanity had just evolved itself out from the
‘Neolithic’ age and culture was in a flux universally. Culture was not
crystalized and solidified. It was on
such an occasion that Lord God Yahweh promulgating, ‘You shall not kill’
your brother and ‘put to death someone, who violates the moral code for the
smooth running of the society.’ Almost after one and half millennia from that
time Jesus was revising the code, because cultural development demanded a
change in the law as well. Jesus was
able to realize that, because He was the one, who had originally promulgated
the law and He knew it clearly, when the law was due for revision, which He
Himself had once instituted. Improved
cultural standards helped the society to keep better decorum and murder was not
that often or common during Jesus times, as it were during Moses’ times.
Secondly improved culture is also a gift of the Holy Spirit to the humanity. Thus, under the divine management humans had
improved over time, observed Jesus. Although
the physical moral code had improved considerably, the spiritual moral code
needed improvement. It is in this
context that Jesus was revising the law. We can notice it clearly from the wording that
Matthew is giving: “But I say to you
that whoever is angry…”. ‘Who are
you to say, But I say to you’,
‘Where did you get the authority to say, But
I say to you’, would have been the questions the Pharisees or Sadducees
would have wanted to ask. The answer is revealed to us, namely, It is none
other than the same one, who had promulgated the first law, ‘The Logos’, the
Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God become Human’, whom we call Jesus!
time for us to meditate on the concept murder a little deeper. Jesus says,
being angry without cause is murder. It is thus made clear that it is lawful to
be angry about a cause. Yet, no one is allowed to raise the cudgel against
one’s own brother or sister, one’s own fellow in the human community.
Deuteronomy 32:35 say: “I shall repay on the day of vengeance; In time their
foot shall slip”. St. Paul is quoting the same in Romans 12:19 and admonishing
the Christians not to opt the way for retribution. This is a new lesson that
the Holy Spirit is teaching to the whole humanity and Jesus is voicing it.
Murder is prohibited and being angry without a cause to another brother or
sister is murder. We are thus taught to see the humanity as a whole in a
different point of view, that every human is created in the image and likeness
of God and one shall look the other in a different perspective, the perspective
of a brother or sister. This was totally a new idea to the humanity, the idea
of universal brotherhood. Violation of this new law attracts judgment, Jesus
What are the expressions of being angry with
another brother or sister, for killing another person has been reduced
considerably now days? Let us count some of them. There will be many more,
without doubt. We discuss just four of them.
setting standards for others according to our selfish terms we show our anger
to them. Oftentimes, we fall into anger with others, when we understand that others
were acting against our zones of comfort.
we notice that people, when hear sermons, observe facts and use those facts to
judge others like: “Today, the preacher was talking about you in the sermon”. A
sermon shall not be a tool to judge others, rather to judge oneself. Let the
other judge himself or herself, and let us judge ourselves. Secondly, no
preacher shall irrationally use the podium or bima as a means to judge others.
A right sermon occurs, when the preacher becomes the oracle of the Holy Spirit
and the Holy Spirit speaks through the mouth of the preacher. Thus the sermon
becomes a double-edged sword, cutting the hearer’s minds as well as the
do not like others, we often fall prey to succumb to employing unfundamented
criticism or ridiculing. We tend to speak without verifying facts or bully
others, with an intention to harm their mind and spirit. Recently it was
reported in Florida that a young 12-year-old girl took her life away because
she was badly bullied by her peers. Jesus would qualify ridiculing and making
fun of others in a destructive mindset as murder and such actions will attract
judgment without doubt.
area that can be qualified as expression of unfundamented anger is
deliberations without being obedient to the legal system or law of the land.
One has to have a fundamental faith in the legal system. If it is broken one
can ask concerned authorities to fix it. However, agitation against the legal
system and thus disrespecting commonly accepted order of justice is equivalent
At the beginning we
discussed that the year-end has arrived and the New Year is at hand. Let this
Gospel portion be a guideline for all of us to evaluate ourselves and to adopt all
necessary changes. May the sanctification of the Church be the occasion for us
to sanctify ourselves as well!
May God bless us
all and Happy New Year!
Jacob Mathew Achen