[Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you,
unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.“] (Mt. 5:20)
This directive from Jesus must have sounded darn near impossible to His disciples. The scribes and Pharisees were the religious rockstars of their day. They knew the Law of Moses inside and out, and they were meticulous in observing it.
Yet, Jesus critiques these religious leaders. He doesn’t dismiss the good religious practices they promote and engage in. Rather, He says these things are not enough. Jesus demands more of His disciples.
What is that “more” Jesus is asking for? The heart. Yes, the scribes and Pharisees followed the letter of the law, but their hearts had gone cold. Religion for them had become just a robotic following of rules and regulations. Their hearts were no longer focused on loving God, but on following the laws.
So what about you and me? Have the penances we’ve chosen to undertake for Lent become just a cold, disinterested, robotic exercise in rule following? Are our hearts growing in love for God through what we’ve committed to?