Margery Kempe, Mystic, c. 1440
Text for the Reflection
‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. ‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Today´s text is part of the Sermon on the Mount discourse and Jesus pronouncing what other preachers refer to as radicalized ethics. Their applications in real-life situations are not practical especially when one reads them literally. There has been debate over the years in New Testament scholarship on how to interpret them. The most important thing about these ethics that I would want to raise is that Jesus is not departing from previous teachings from the Old Testament but he is intensifying them. He goes deeper into what I can refer to as the incubator for sinning. Jesus knew that if people manage to deal with sin at its roots or incubating stage then full-blown sins will be minimized. What we see later as sin is something that could have been nurtured and watered internally before it comes out. Therefore, as Christians, we are being warned against nurturing the seed of sin which will be difficult to control when it germinates. May the Lord bless us and empower us to fight the seed of sin like mystics like Margery Kempe whom we remember today.
Let Us Pray
Grant, we beseech you, merciful Lord, to your faithful
people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from
all their sins and serve you with a quiet mind;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and
reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.