Jesus said to his disciples: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:20
This Lenten season, we can get immersed in our own programs of mortification, of what we should and should not do. We can be so focused with the practices of Lent that we lose sight of the meaning behind our practices. Jesus, in the gospel reminds us that our righteousness should surpass that of the scribes and pharisees who tend to focus more on how well they’ve performed their practices and ceremonies. They lose sight of the real meaning behind the practices. God, on the other hand, looks at our hearts.
Why do we give up chocolates or desserts during Lent? Why are we making such sacrifices? God is challenging us to look beyond our sacrifices. Have we tried to offer that sacrifice for the conversion of a friend who lives in sin? If we do, we may find more meaning in that sacrifice. Why do we give up the use of the elevator and use the stairs instead? Is it to become a healthier person? Or rather, can we do that sacrifice with the thought that being healthy means having more opportunities to help others and look out for the needs of others rather than our own. Why do we give up meat? Is it just to see whether we have enough self control? Or can we think about our brothers and sisters who have nothing to eat. Are thoughts enough to move us to become better persons? Can we divert the money we use to buy meat and donate to the feeding of the hungry instead?
Jesus urges us to become more than the scribes and the pharisees. He implores us to put our hearts in our actions. He compels us to build relationships, offer acts of mercy and utter words of kindness. He has always insisted on looking at things beyond the superficial. Relationships, relationships, relationships. How well do we think of others? How well do we relate to others? How well do we treat others? These are the things He wants us to focus on this Lent.
Let us go beyond mere Lenten practices and routines. Let us address the heart of the matter, that is, the state of our heart. How well do we reflect the love of God in our lives? Are we kind and caring the way God wants us to be? These are the things that matter. These will make us surpass the righteousness of the scribes and the pharisees. These are the things that will please our God who wants not our sacrifices but instead wants our obedience. As we continue with our Lenten observances, let us challenge ourselves to be more and not just to do more.