Grace to you!
In today’s reflection, I share how righteousness is about who we become in God and for one another, not simply about the acts we perform.
If you ask a Christian who knows the basics of the faith about the three practices of Lent, they could easily say fasting, prayer and almsgiving. So, many make personal schedules on how to practice these acts. Before long, Lent becomes a human work of what we do. I fasted. I gave alms. I prayed. I gave up sweets. I gave up alcohol. Simply, I did.... We easily forget that Lent is first about, “I am transformed.”
You know it is easier to give money to the beggar on the street than it is to stifle our heart of hate. It is easier to donate food and clothing for those living in the Projects, than it is to stave off racism from our heart. It is easier to spend hours praying than to forgive an enemy. It is easier to go to church on Sunday than it is to overcome our unholy addictions.
The acts we physically perform, though they may be good, tend to give us a false sense of righteousness. We can easily forget that true righteousness begins from within the heart—a heart and mind and entire person, renewed from within, attuned to God’s will. A person renewed by grace. It is not simply about what we do. It is about who we become in God and for one another.
The Lord tells us that our righteousness has to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees of his time for us to be saved (Mt 5:20). If we use the meaning of righteousness in Matthew as “Doing God’s will” (Newman and Stine, A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, 1992), then we could see it in the light of a renewed heart that is attuned to God’s will.
In the example the Lord used about our relationship with one another (See Mtt 5:23-26), we learn that it isn’t simply the gifts we offer to the Lord at the altar that makes us right. Rather it is the heart that is forgiving. In short, it isn’t so much as what we do with our hands and feet, the actions we perform. These have to correspond with our heart.
Righteousness is about the whole person renewed to become a hymn of holy praise. It is living the life of grace so much so that the acts we perform become good and holy, a praise unto the Lord. Such a person becomes a gift of God to others and act justly.
So, for our actions to be elevated to the level of righteousness, the heart and mind of the person that practices them have to be renewed. The person has to be attuned to the will of God and live following those qualities of Godliness. Such are what Saint Paul describes as the fruits of the spirit (Gal 2:22-23).
Praying that during this Lent we be renewed from within, so as to act in ways that are right and just. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu.
[Lent Week 1 C: Ez 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26]
Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections for the season of Lent your individual spiritual edification. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations. .