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
The Gospel lesson for today conveys one of the many perplexing statements conveyed in the teaching of Jesus. To protestants, raised on the notion of “faith alone”, this scripture is all the more befuddling.
Several threads are interconnected here, so let’s take them one at a time.
First, by righteousness, we have in mind our attunement to and with Love by means of spiritual practice(s) that manifest in our life as an increasing harmony with God, our self, others and the earth and cosmos.
Second, the word “surpasses” gives the impression of “more-than.” In fact, a literal understanding of the idea of “surpassing righteousness” could best be said this way: “one who has acquired abundant harmony”.
The words “surpass” and “abundant”, often convey the idea of quantity, but there is wisdom in also hearing the dimension of quality. Thus, the invitation is to have an abundant quality of relationality with God that manifests in your life in the world as overflowing harmony with God, your self, with others, and the earth and cosmos.
Taken through the lens of Quality, one can begin to see the contrast Jesus is making between the surface-quality of false religious atmospheres that often keep folks in fear, and also wrapped up in their own self enhancement projects; in contrast to the depth-quality of heart-opening, soul-growing spiritual practices that infuse us with the love of God by first confronting our falseness and fears, and not denying or projecting them, but rather unloading them into the ever abundant river of divine Grace, which transcends anything our mind might be able to comprehend or measure.
It is the quality of our seeking that impacts the quantity of our abundant harmony in this life and the next. Or, as Jesus said elsewhere: seek first the right-relationaltiy in and with God’s rule, and every other harmony and goodness will be given to you (Matthew 6.33, my adaptation).
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