Voices ever ancient, ever new. Lent, Week 3: Wednesday

“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.” (Matthew 5:19)

Saint John Chrysostom comments on this verse from today’s Gospel reading:

“For what reason then does he call some of these commandments “least,” though they are so magnificent and lofty? Jesus spoke this way because he was about to introduce his own teaching as a new law. As he humbles himself and speaks of himself with great modesty, so he refers to his own teaching in the same manner. In this way Jesus teaches us to practice humility in everything. And besides, since some suspected his teaching to be a new departure, he temporarily taught it in a more reserved way. But when you hear “least in the kingdom of heaven,” you are to think of nothing but hell and punishment. For it was his practice to speak not only of the joy the kingdom brings but also of the time of the resurrection and the fearful event of the second coming. Think of one who calls a brother a fool. That one transgresses only one commandment, maybe even the slightest one, and falls into hell. Compare that one with another who breaks all the commandments and instigates others to break them. Do both have the same relation to the kingdom? This is not the argument Jesus is making. Rather, he means that one who transgresses only one of the commands will on the final day be the least—that is, cast out—and last, and will fall into hell.” (The Gospel of Saint Matthew, Homily 16)

Grant, we pray, O Lord,
that, schooled through Lenten observance
and nourished by your word,
through holy restraint
we may be devoted to you with all our heart
and be ever united in prayer.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to You Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning is now
and will be forever. Amen!