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“A box of Russell Stover Chocolates, a card from Quick Trip, and a few cut flowers from the guys who sells them on the street corner – that should keep her happy.”  Imagine if a newly wedded husband approached Valentine’s Day with that attitude, seeking to get away with doing and spending as little as possible. He’d be toast, wouldn’t he?  A husband truly in love would never do just the minimum to demonstrate his love and affection for his wife. He would be extravagant. He would be led by his heart!

As we continue reading from the Sermon on the Mount, we hear Jesus telling his disciples to go beyond the minimum, to go beyond the letter of the law found in the commandments. In doing so, Jesus takes what the law taught to a higher level of obedience.  When we only follow the strict letter of the law, said Jesus, we run the risk of missing the higher, nobler wisdom embodied in the law.  And we miss the opportunity to express all that is in our hearts for God.

So, while the law says do not kill, Jesus teaches that his disciples are to disperse anger and ill feelings. Jesus elevates the emotion of anger to the level of murder.  Why?  Because, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said often, you can kill a person without killing them.  Hatred, prejudice, slander, and fear all have murder in their DNA.  To treat another person as if they did not exist, to discount their fundamental humanity because of their skin color or ethnicity, to demote another person to the level of being sub-human because of their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, political views, or what we call social class is to write them off, killing them as persons of worth.  Anger left unchecked and unnamed for what it is has de facto murder as its outcome.  The loving of God’s people must move from anger to love.  It is not enough just to ‘not kill’ people.  That is just the minimum.  Love demands that we recognize the intrinsic value of every human being.

While the law says do not commit adultery, Jesus teaches that his disciples are to resist the lustful feelings that seek a place in their mind and heart. We are to avoid all things that pull us in the wrong direction.  For example, married couples can strictly keep the fidelity of their marriage vows yet not keep the promise to deeply, passionately love the other person.  A couple that prides itself on faithfulness but has neglected the hard work of keeping romance in their relationship has missed living into the power of their marriage promises.  They’ve done only the minimum.

Jesus probably never imagined what the Internet has done in terms of people looking ‘lustfully’ at others.  The ease of accessing pornography and the number of people addicted is frightening.  Its effects on those addicted are just beginning to be documented:  it reduces men and women to objects, cheapens the value of sex, and lessens people’s ability to enter into long term relationships.  In response to that, the archdiocese is beginning a new program to combat pornography and its use.  It is called: As for Me and My House. The title comes from the moment when Joshua, about to lead the people into the Promised Land, asks the people whom they will follow – God and his commands to life or Baal and death.   After issuing the invitation, he says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  It is multifaceted in its approach – a video, counseling, advice to parents on what to watch for from you kids, etc.  (As an aside, I still need a chair from the parish to help implement.  This is a hard “ask” – Hey, do you want to be in charge of anti-pornography in the parish… So, if God moves your heart – let me know)  It’s another way where people can do more than the minimum…

While the law says avoid false oaths, Jesus teaches that his disciples are to be persons of integrity. We are to speak words that always ring true.   And so it goes…

Jesus, as we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel, did not come to abolish the law and commandments, but to fulfill them. Jesus came to teach us by his words, and to show us by his life, that true love is extravagant. True love never does the minimum.  Neither should we…

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