Saturday, February 12, 2011

Additional Lectionary Note for Proper 6 of Year A

Thinking further on the notes for tomorrow's readings, I thought it might be of interest and profit to provide a further note on the Lord Jesus' teaching about making peace before offering our gifts. A paricular interest comes because the Exchange of the Peace in the Eucharist is made where it is, after the confession and before the Offertory just to obey this teaching.
A Note from
Charles Gore's THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (1896)
Matthew 5.23-26
[Jesus] adds a sort of parenthesis dealing with the duty of hastening to remove any uncharitable relation in which we may stand towards others.
The text of Matthew 5.23-26 follows here.
Our Lord is speaking to Jews who were accustomed to bring their offerings into the temple. He says that if one of them, while engaged in this religious observance, should remember that his brother has aught against him, he is to leave his gift before the altar and to go away hastily, as a man who is leaving an unfinished work, and be reconciled; and then come back and offer his gift. It is to be done quickly. This is emphasized in a second metaphor. In case of a debt you would have to act quickly, or the law would be in train and extreme consequences would follow. So in moral offences go quickly and satisfy ; purge your conscience and get free ; suffer no delay; otherwise the moral consequences will be in train, and the issue inevitable, and the final result follow.
He speaks to Jews, but he also speaks to Christians. It is the law of the new kingdom. We have an altar. We have to offer up spiritual sacrifices, the worship of God in spirit and in truth. Thus in the course of the first century Jewish Christians apparently applied this saying of our Lord to the Holy Communion. In The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles [Didache 14,2] you find: 'Let no man who has a dispute with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled [the word in St. Matt. v. 24], that your sacrifice be not defiled.' Surely we need to lay to heart this teaching, that we are to make haste to get rid of whatever hinders our approach to God. We Englishmen are so apt to pride ourselves on not being hypocrites. It was once said to me, and the saying has always remained in my mind, that the great need in our day is to preach against the Pharisaism of the publican! How many say, 'I don't come to the sacrament : a man who has to knock about and make his way in the world must do things and put up with things which if one comes to the sacrament one is supposed to repent of. And if I do not profess to be impossibly strict, at least I am not a hypocrite’. So he goes off. 'Lord, I thank thee that I am not one of these hypocrites: I make no religious professions, thank God! 'Now this is what I call the Pharisaism of the publican. Pharisaism is being satisfied with ourselves. And the Pharisaism of the man who makes no religious professions is at least as bad as the Pharisaism of the man who abounds in them. Our Lord does not bid us abstain from coming to the altar if we are not fit, but He says, See to it that you make yourselves fit; and that too in a hurry. 'Leave there thy gift before the altar', but you cannot leave it long. It will be in the way there. There is an unfinished work which you are engaged in. Make haste to come back and finish it. If among my readers are some who belong to the Church and are not communicants, and are satisfied because they are not hypocrites, I would say to them do not be satisfied: begin to approach the altar: commit yourself to it, by telling your wife or husband, or friend or parish priest, that you hope to receive the Communion, and when ; and then go your ways quickly and remove the moral obstacles which hinder your doing so; otherwise the moral train will be set in motion, and the great and inevitable issue come before you know it.
There is one other point which I will ask you to notice our Lord's use in this passage of the word 'brother'. In the Bible the term 'brother' is confined to those who belong to the covenant; in the old law to the Jews, in the new law to the Christians. Our Lord then is here dealing with the relation of Christian to Christian, who have realized their brotherhood in the common fatherhood of God. All men are meant for brotherhood, but our Lord is speaking here to those who are brothers in fact.

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