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‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”
These words come from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is challenging us to “go deeper” in living of our faith. This is the challenge of the season of Lent. Jesus went on to speak about the commandment, “You must not kill”, saying: 
“You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill … But I say this to you….” 

To understand this teaching, we need to remember that the Scribes and Pharisees had developed detailed lists of conditions for determining what was right or wrong. These included detailed conditions for deciding whether someone had sinned by murder. 

Jesus teaching replaced those detailed lists with a new condition: what we intend to do; what is in our hearts. He teaches us that not only is it wrong to kill someone, but it is also wrong to be angry with others or even to call them names. 

If someone’s heart is filled with hatred for another person, the anger in their heart might be just as serious as murder. 

Jesus wants us to “go deeper”. He wants us to go deeper than looking at a like a checklist – ticking of all the things we have done or not done.  Instead, Jesus wants us to see what is in our hearts. What do I intend? What do I want? 

Most of us probably have not thought about killing anybody today – or even this week! …. But Jesus call to “go deeper” is far more challenging.  For most of us it is not hard to avoid murder killing someone. 

It is much harder, however, to have good attitudes to everyone, to love everyone, to forgive everyone, to do good things for them and to be of service to them. It’s much harder especially if someone has hurt me. 

We can hurt people with our tongues in gossip, with our anger, with our attitudes. Sometimes what is in our hearts can be “murderous”. Sometimes our tongues can kill a person’s reputation.  

The philosopher Nietzsche once quoted an old saying: 

"If looks could kill, we would long ago have been done for."  

In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that they cannot go and offer sacrifice at the altar whilst they have issues with another person: 

“Go and be reconciled with your sister or brother first, and then come back and present your offering.” 

The challenge to “go deeper” comes in here too. 

Can I go to Mass, to the Eucharist, if – in my heart - I am refusing to forgive, harbouring anger or a grudge against someone? 
  • In this time of Lent, Jesus says to us “your virtue must go deeper”. 
  • When I am tempted to gossip and kill someone’s reputation, Jesus says, “go deeper …”. 
  • When I am harbouring anger, lack of forgiveness or harsh judgement in my heart, Jesus is saying to me …. “go deeper” 

In these days of Lent, through more prayer, self-denial and fasting and through sharing with the poor, let’s allow Jesus to help us go deeper and deeper into his way of life. 

Throughout today, we might quietly say and pray, over and over again:
“go deeper, go deeper, go deeper….”