Sunday’s gospel contained a great challenge and a great consolation. To look at the challenge first – “For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven”. We might be inclined to pass over that quickly ‘they were just hypocrites’, but if we look at how they lived (according to the bible) how many of us are even half as concerned with what is due to God and our neighbour? Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, moral conduct – and look at St Paul the “Pharisee of Pharisees”. Jesus doesn’t say to stop doing any of this but to do MORE, to go DEEPER. I spent some time praying with this text: What is Jesus asking of us? How is Christian virtue different?

I think the central difference is Christ. In other words I need to see Christ/God in others, “whatever you did for the least of these who are mine you did for me”. Christian charity must flow from this awareness of God’s presence in the other person. This is what made Mother Teresa’s charity so special. It might be worthwhile to ask ourselves now and then during the day, ‘is this how I would react to Jesus?’.

Having looked at the great Challenge, let us turn to the great Consolation: “Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven”. Notice those words, “the least in the kingdom of heaven”. So the sinner, the one who breaks the commandments is the least in the kingdom of heaven, BUT is not kicked out of the Kingdom. This is a very hopeful text, I may be the least but I am still a child of the Kingdom, and this sheds some light on why the Church is so slow to expel members.