By Delia Marie (Dee) Smith, M.M.
Sunday, February 12, 2023
Sir 15:15-20 | 1 Cor 2:6-10 | Mt 5:17-37
Today’s gospel reading appears to be full of Jesus laying down the law and dispensing orders with dire consequences if not followed!
“Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven,” he says.
And, “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother or sister will be liable to judgment.”
Going further, “Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Then he says, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”
But on reflecting further we actually come across what I would call Jesus’s insightful understanding of the human soul. Jesus knows that without clear guidance the people would be vulnerable to all kinds of difficulties and failings. They would be even more susceptible to judgment and self-righteous discrimination. He holds up the scribes and Pharisees as a group who think they have all the right answers rather than being upright and just.
I have been living and serving in Guatemala now for over 29 years missioned and working with people with HIV and their families. These are a people who have been marginalized, judged, violated, murdered, isolated and discriminated against in every area of their lives. Many Christian churches have refused to allow people with HIV or transgender people or gay people worship in their temples. They are vilified, called sinners and “deserving” of the virus through their unacceptable behavior (according to the “righteous” of Guatemala.)
Throughout my time here I have witnessed the strength and conviction of my fellow colleagues in our hospice to promote the YES as YES and NO as NO that Jesus calls us to practice. Our YES to caring for people with HIV and our NO to discrimination, isolation and mistreatment by family members, communities and neighbors.
More than ever in these chaotic times, we are challenged to speak out our truth and stand firm on the side of justice and equality for all in creation.
Let us always strive to be people of whom Jesus can rightly say…our YES means YES and our NO means NO. With faith and courage, we shall be the face of an integrated righteousness that surpasses all evildoing in the world.
Maryknoll Sister Delia Marie (Dee) Smith, originally from England, worked as a lay missioner in Kenya before joining the Maryknoll Sisters congregation in 1990. She has served in Guatemala since 1993.
To read other Scripture reflections published by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, click here.
Featured image: Maryknoll Sister Delia Marie (Dee) Smith explains a cooperative savings program to a widow in Guatemala, where the missioner serves. (Courtesy of Dee Smith/Guatemala)