Two summers ago Disney Pixar released Inside Out which is about Riley, a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl, whose world turns upside-down when she and her parents move to San Francisco.
While the movie was entertaining and quite humorous at times, it effectively highlighted the inner struggle that we all go through at different periods in life. The title itself identifies the crux of the challenge. In this week's Gospel we see the essence of this same inside out struggle.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
"You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; and whoever says to his brother, 'Raqa,' will be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
"You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
"It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife - unless the marriage is unlawful - causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
"Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.' Anything more is from the evil one." Matthew 5:17-37
Imagine the disciples sitting and listening to these words from Jesus. He starts off telling them that their righteousness must surpass the most righteous in Israel, the scribes and Pharisees who sought to follow the "smallest part" of the letter of the law. And if that was not enough Jesus ratchets up what it meant to be truly righteous. It isn't just the action but the inner condition of the person that matters. And if that challenge wasn't tough enough, Jesus then suggests the drastic measure of removing the offending "member" completely from the body. Finally, He emphasizes preeminence of God by removing all possible doubt as to where their allegiance or oath must lie.
How overwhelming this all seems! Until we stop and acknowledge what makes it all possible. We are incapable of achieving the righteousness that is required of us. It is not possible for humans in our fallen condition to be perfect, unless our heart is right. A heart given over totally to God. A heart fully surrendered to loving Him above all else. This is an inside out job. We must focus all of our energies, efforts and our emotions towards the only truly righteous One. From the inside out.
As I was working on this I was listening to some worship music when this song came on. It confirmed for me that this challenging passage of scripture that always troubled me really wasn't as intimidating as I thought. Here are the words for the chorus of From the Inside Out by Hillsong United.
In my heart and my soul
Lord I give You control
Consume me from the inside out,
Lord, let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love you from the inside out
The impossibility of living a perfect life is made attainable when we realize that the perfect life is one focused totally on He Who is perfect.
I know this has been a long one but let me encourage you to persevere a little longer. Here is a link to the song that I believe will bless you today as you seek to live your life for Him from the inside out.