This past Friday was Valentine’s Day; a day in which we celebrated the loves in our lives. It is a day of the heart. It is a day when we take stock of how the law of love has impacted our lives. The law of love is ruled by the heart and as such, hearts are the symbol of the day. A common candy for the celebration are the candy hearts which have words and phrases on them. You could say they have the intentions of the heart written on them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus considers the heart’s intentions with respect to the Jewish law. Jesus often challenged the law because of how its application detracted from the dignity of the persons affected by it. But in today’s Gospel, He says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt. 5: 17). Why does He say this? This statement indicates His focus on the intentions behind the external appearances of living in accord with the law. Those practices to keep the law do not reflect the inner disposition or intentions of the heart. He wants his listeners to understand that our hearts must have the right intention, and that we can be guilty of an offense, despite the innocence of how we appear to be living.
Jesus challenges his audience and us to be aware of the intentions of our heart which must be right with God and with others. He gives three examples of looking beyond the appearance of the strict keeping of the law regarding murder, adultery and swearing an oath. And though those may seem like offenses against the commandments that we would not commit, Jesus’ point is that we can commit them through the intension of our hearts. In the example of adultery he illustrates his point by saying, “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” (Mt. 5: 27-8). Jesus wants us to understand, any of us can commit any of those capitol sins simply by way of the intentions of our heart.
As His disciples, we must examine our hearts and consider our own intentions. We must reflect on our intentions to ensure that we are “clean of heart” as outlined in the Beatitudes. We must seek reconciliation with those we have offended, so that we may be faithful to God’s greatest laws; which include the love God and the love of neighbor. And so something we can reflect on this week is, how do we direct the intentions of our hearts to embody God’s law of love and mercy for our world?