Yesterday one of my housemates received a text from her nephew with a sonogram image of his expected child. His wife is only three months pregnant, yet the technology was so clear that we could already see the brain forming in his (yes, it’s a boy!) well-formed head. We marveled at the amazing miracle of how this baby – and all of us – are formed in our mother’s womb. I was reminded this morning of how babies need do nothing in order to garner the attention of anyone who crosses their path. We are all in awe of the beauty and wonder of such an amazing creation. What happens to us as we age that causes us to forget how to reverence one another?
In today’s gospel (MT 5: 20-26) – near the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus is speaking about a deeper way to follow the commandment, “You shall not kill.” He says, “…whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin…” The Sanhedrin was the supreme religious body in the land of Israel, comparable to the US Supreme Court. I always just passed over raqa when that reading appeared, figuring that it meant something mean that was said in Hebrew by someone who was angry. Today, I decided to research it and found that I was correct to a point but that raqa speaks of a kind of anger that erupts from someone whose anger is dangerously spiteful. Raqa means useless, empty and of no value. These days we call that kind of language used against another verbal abuse. When someone hurls those words at another person, it is as if the word becomes an arrow, piercing to the heart, and the damage can be devastating. No wonder Jesus was so emphatic in his critique.
All this brings to mind the venomous language that is present in the political sphere during a campaign for an important office. Sometimes it is not only the candidates who denigrate their opponents but those in the different supporting “camps” who are drawn in to such inflammatory rhetoric. We are in such a moment in our country now and need to take care, lest we lose ourselves in negativity rather than make intelligent choices on the issues.
In our personal lives as well we need to take care to monitor our emotions. Proceeding on our Lenten journey, let us seek out people and experiences that will remind us of the miracle of God’s creation that is the human being. Moreover, let us treat one another with respect and reverence, eschewing anger at its beginning to avoid any words that we may regret for the damage they inflict on another person. Peace be our path today!