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February 1987

Everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement. (Mt. 5:22).

We are listening to part of the Sermon on the Mount. Through Moses God had severely condemned murder as the maximum expression of lack of love for one's brother. Jesus tells us here that not just murder, but also quite simply any inner attitude of anger, the slightest offensive remark against one's brother, must be eliminated in the community of the kingdom.

Obviously Jesus is not referring here to those immediate reactions which are beyond our control and which we repent at once. He is concerned about certain inner attitudes of anger that are willed and cultivated, and which then explode in offensive words and deeds against our neighbour.

Everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement.

By attributing the same punishment to murder and anger, Jesus does not mean that the two faults are of equal seriousness. He simply wants to draw our attention to the importance of our feelings and inner attitudes. God will judge us, even before judging what we have done, upon our spirit, upon our inner attitude. Small failures in charity (always supposing they are willed and cultivated), even though they are not as serious as murder, start from the same root: a loveless heart.

Everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement.

Who is this brother? As we know Jesus has greatly enlarged the meaning of this term. He said, 'As often as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me' (Mt. 25:40). Jesus identifies himself with each person, and so each person is our brother.

But if it is true that every human being is our brother, it is particularly true of those persons with whom we share a common faith and the life of grace. Any offences, resentment or conflicts are to be rebuked if they occur between people in general and in particular if they appear among Christians.

Jesus is telling us that any form of anger, of enmity or hatred is a contradiction in terms, particularly for those who call themselves Christians.

Everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement.

How should we live this Word of Life? Certainly, it urges us to look again at our way of acting, of speaking and of dealing with our neighbour.

This Word of Life points especially to the roots of our actions. It may be that out of politeness we manage to avoid offending our neighbour and do not openly clash with him or her. But what is our real inner attitude? Are we sincerely prepared to give up our point of view to try and give space to the other person? Do we make every effort to go beyond the differences that divide us? Are we able to demolish the barriers we have inside us, made up of dislike, resentment, rejection, etc? Basically, is our attitude inspired by love?

If we can answer 'yes', then we really are on the road shown by Jesus. Therefore, let's live this Word of Life well by deciding once more to love each of our neighbours as if they were Jesus.

Chiara Lubich

 

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