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Home » Daily Gospel, Daily Readings

Thou Shall Not Kill (Matthew 5:20-26)

Submitted by on Thursday, 10 June 2010No Comment

thoushallnotkill

  • Reading I: 1 Kings 18:41-46
  • Resp. Psalm: Psalm 65
  • Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:20-26

After Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal, rain comes to Israel from the sea. The point of the narrative is the way Elijah gets to Jezreel faster than Ahab who was riding a chariot. This possible because "the power of the Lord came upon Elijah" (1 Kgs 18:46). After the spectacular display of fire called down by the prophet, running for cover as the sky darkened with impending rain is insignificant. But to run faster than the king’s chariot — which was drawn by a team of horses — is superhuman especially when from Mt. Carmel to the Valley of Jezreel there is a distance of about 6 kilometers.

Matthew 5:20-26 begins Jesus’ interpretation of the Law. First, he declares that the righteousness of Christians should go beyond that of the Pharisees (20), then he follows this up with the first of the "You have heard … but now I tell you" teachings. The first to be dealt with is the commandment "Thou shall not kill" (21). To this he adds the proscription on anger and its varying degrees of severity (22). He then gives the positive teachings on reconciliation with the brother one has offended (23-24) and with the enemy who drags one to court (25-26).

In the Catechism, the above passages are referred to in Parts III (Christian Morals) and Part IV (Christian Prayer), but mostly from the former. Jesus acknowledged the ten commandments indicating not the letter, but the Spirit (CCC 2054). The letter kills; when civil societies forget the Spirit of the Law, they can easily become totalitarian (CCC 2057). The Lord recalls the command "Thou shall not kill" but also adds to it proscriptions to anger, hatred and vengeance (CCC 2262). Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity (CCC 2302). The Lord insists on conversion of heart, reconciliation, love of enemies and the prayer for persecutors (CCC 2608).

Finally, if one is to pray "Our Father" seriously and truthfully, then divisions should be overcome (CCC 2792, see also CCC 2841, 2845)

1 Kings 18:41-46
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
41And Elias said to Achab: Go up, eat, and drink: for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
42Achab went up to eat and drink: and Elias went up to the top of Carmel, and casting himself down upon the earth put his face between his knees,
43And he said to his servant: Go up, and look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times.
44And at the seventh time, behold, a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man's foot. And he said: Go up and say to Achab: Prepare thy chariot and go down, lest the rain prevent thee.
45And while he turned himself this way and that way, behold the heavens grew dark, with clouds, and wind, and there fell a great rain. And Achab getting up went away to Jezrahel:
46And the hand of the Lord was upon Elias, and he girded up his loins and ran before Achab, till he came to Jezrahel.
Matthew 5:20-26
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
20For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
21You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.
22But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
23If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee;
24Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.
25Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing.
Matthew 5:20-26
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
20For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
21You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.
22But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
23If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee;
24Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.
25Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing.
CCC 2054
¶2054 Jesus acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he also showed the power of the Spirit at work in their letter. He preached a "righteousness [which] exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees" as well as that of the Gentiles. He unfolded all the demands of the Commandments. "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill.' . . . But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment."
CCC 2057
¶2057 The Decalogue must first be understood in the context of the Exodus, God's great liberating event at the center of the Old Covenant. Whether formulated as negative commandments, prohibitions, or as positive precepts such as: "Honor your father and mother," the "ten words" point out the conditions of a life freed from the slavery of sin. The Decalogue is a path of life:

If you love the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply.

This liberating power of the Decalogue appears, for example, in the commandment about the sabbath rest, directed also to foreigners and slaves:

You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.

CCC 2262
¶2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill," and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies. He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.
CCC 2302
¶2302 By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill," our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.

Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice." If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment."

CCC 2608
¶2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one's brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else. This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.
CCC 2792
¶2792 Finally, if we pray the Our Father sincerely, we leave individualism behind, because the love that we receive frees us from it. The "our" at the beginning of the Lord's Prayer, like the "us" of the last four petitions, excludes no one. If we are to say it truthfully, our divisions and oppositions have to be overcome.
CCC 2841,2845
¶2841 This petition is so important that it is the only one to which the Lord returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount. This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for man. But "with God all things are possible."
¶2845 There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness, whether one speaks of "sins" as in Luke (11:4), "debts" as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another." The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relation ship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.

God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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