St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Trinity VI : Fr Tony Hogg

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 When Jesus says, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and 
Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, he is setting a standard 
that is tremendously hard to meet; one might say impossible. One has to ask, 
“Is Jesus asking us to try harder?”
This is part of the Sermon on The Mount and here Jesus lays out the Law 
with brutal precision. Unless we are better than the best at keeping the Law, 
we shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Unless we are perfect we are in
 trouble. If we are angry with our brother we ought to go to jail, and if you 
call him a hurtful name, you ought to go to hell! So much for warm-and-fuzzy 
Jesus! He just said that getting to heaven is impossible, at least by our own 
efforts.
So Jesus reminds us all that before we try to come before God and act all 
religious, we had better straighten out our affairs with those around us. Don’t 
even try to pretend that we are a good person and love God when we have 
issues with those we can see and hear and touch.
The new rules that Jesus sets forth are pretty strict. Translated from the 
Gospel text into modern idiom, Jesus is saying something to the effect that we 
serve God by serving our fellow man – particularly those that we know, that 
live around us, at home, at church, in the family. Our duty of love and 
concern and consideration towards them is our duty towards God.
We serve God by serving our neighbor and we serve our neighbor by serving 
God. 
The really delightful thing about God is that God has chosen to include us, to 
take what we give to serve him, and use it for the welfare of the people around 
us. He takes our time, and talents and our willingness to put ourselves out for 
someone else, and uses it for the benefit of someone else, around us, a 
neighbour , a fellow-Christian, a family member. So every part of our life is 
fair game as a gift to God, and as service to him that which St Paul calls ‘that 
which is good and acceptable and perfect.
But we cannot do that if we are withholding something from our brother, or if 
we are carrying anger or hatred or just plain apathy. And why? Because we 
cannot serve God in our neighbour or brother – which is to say if that is the 
case, we are giving that to God. So Jesus says put things to rights with the 
people we can see before you try to come to God whom you cannot see.
God actually wants us all to be really and thoroughly and deliberately 
Christian. H expects us to think through our words and our behaviours in the 
light of our faith, which is to say in the light of his presence.
But we all know that is so difficult to measure up to. Do we have no anger? No 
 name calling? We know too that God hears our thoughts as well. We need to 
make friends with Jesus while there is still time. Happily we have that 
friendship and we have that peace in Jesus. He made that peace for us on his 
body on the cross. He paid the penalty, faced the judge, suffered until the last 
penny was paid – paid in the coin of his life blood. His resurrection is our 
receipt. It is notice from God that payment was made, and that it was 
accepted on our behalf. Our sins are forgiven. Our failures to love our 
brothers consistently is forgiven. Our righteousness, which may be sadly 
lacking in many areas, has been replaced by the gift of God in Jesus Christ, 
which is a righteousness greatly superior to that of the Scribes and Pharisees. 
Christ’s righteousness is absolute and perfect. 
He has called us, and comforted us, and he serves us at the mass of his Body
  and Blood to cleanse and strengthen us. I think also that it is sometimes a 
good thing to remember the other name we so seldom use – Communion; a 
reminder that we are together and united together. Above we must be 
reconciled one to another as we come to the altar leaving behind us all angers 
and animosities which we may have been harbouring.
So now we can, my dears, know and rejoice in that knowledge, despite our 
shortcomings, that we have a friend with whom we can approach the 
judgment seat with him standing next to us. Our sins are forgiven. We are the
 elect, and chosen of God, whom he loves. Now live that reality, rejoicing in 
thanksgiving, and love one another. Those are our new rules and unjustified
 anger, like a fire out of control can have no part in that life or rule.
Amen.
 
 

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