Success can be achieved in many ways - through good fortune, through a certain gift or ability, but most of all through commitment and dedication. Whether it is a sport or hobby, a business or career, dedication to it is essential to success. Today's gospel invites us to reflect on our dedication to living the Christian life. The commandments set the law in black and white. They set minimum standards which most people are capable of meeting. Jesus built on the commandments. He broadened the commandments to include all things related to them. This allows us to look beyond our actions, to our attitudes and intentions that form what we do.
Jesus is telling us in today's gospel that getting by within the letter of the law is not what he has in mind for his followers, and he spells out what he expects of all who believe in him. He does not lay down guidelines for every situation in life but he asks us to keep a check on our inner attitudes and our motivation. Attitudes are just as important as deeds. What we say and do must express what is in our hearts, because good attitudes produce sincere actions. Anyone can easily perform an outwardly good deed to impress other people, but God is not so easily fooled by this. Jesus gives the commandments a deeper meaning, stating that they are to be written into our hearts and into the inner most part of our being. The commandments are a sign of God's care for us. They are for our own good, and if we keep them they ensure greater freedom for all people. If our goal is merely to avoid breaking them then we are not striving for any measure of perfection, but simply fulfilling the basic minimum required for salvation.
In the gospel Jesus referred to the Scribes and the Pharisees who adhered rigidly to rules and regulations. Jesus rebuked them for that. He challenged them, not for obedience to their rules, but rather for their mere lip service to them. What Jesus wants from us is sincerity, not conformity. Jesus wants us to live according to his teaching in a spirit of freedom, doing so because we want to ourselves. Mere conformity or obedience to rules and regulations we do not own or agree with, can only make us bitter, rather than making us better Christians.
Specifically, Jesus refers in this gospel passage to anger, forgiveness, adultery and divorce. According to Jesus we need to have good reason to be angry with someone. He also points out that as a worshipping community we need to be able to forgive each other. There is little use in expressing Christian sentiments in church, unless we also live them in our daily lives.
By challenging adultery and divorce, Jesus reminds us that marriage and happy family life require a whole hearted and life long dedication by a husband and wife. Forming a bond of love in order to live together and face the world, requires a lot of effort and cannot be achieved through a half hearted commitment.
There is little doubt that the Christian way of living is not always easy, nor is it the most popular. It is based on what is ultimately pleasing to God rather than what is pleasing to ourselves. But it guarantees us the highest quality of life possible here on earth and eternal happiness with God our Father in Heaven.