Kempis’s very short chapter on charity is very rich in material, so we continue to explore it here (1,15). The brief sentence in the headline culminates the connection he makes with love: the person who loves much does well what he does which means he cares for the good of others over any selfish desires he may harbor.
In today’s lengthy Gospel (Mt 5:17-37), Jesus has barely gotten past the Beatitudes, which kick off the Sermon on the Mount, when he ups the ante on what the people, and particularly the Pharisees, think they know about the fourth, fifth, and eighth commandments. Adultery strictly a physical act? No! Murder results only in the end of this mortal coil? No! Swearing an oath is confined to courtroom maneuvering? No!
Unjust anger, insults, lust, unlawful divorce, indiscriminate oath swearing all can result in lengthy imprisonment (purgatory) or the ultimate punishment (hell). If the Beatitudes were not challenging enough, just continue to read this chapter to the end to understand the high standard to which the Lord holds us.
There is no room for selfishness in Jesus’ doctrine. We obey and teach the commandments as much by our actions as by our words. What better way to honor the “common good” than to do this.
The verse immediately preceding today’s Gospel follows:
[Y]our light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
It is only in enlightening others with the truth as manifested in our lives and the value we place on those whom we encounter that we can even approach meeting the daunting standard that Jesus sets for us in the closing sentence of this chapter of Matthew:
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (v. 48)
Sermon on the Mount (1877) by Carl Bloch