“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, Raqa, will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
It seems Jesus uses deliberate exaggeration in this morning’s Gospel. And somehow as we listen, we are all indicted; Jesus ups the ante for all of us. The Hebrew word Raqa means something like “airhead.” It may be embarrassing to admit, but which one of us hasn’t in a moment of pique uttered a less than kind remark under our breath when we were wearied even by someone we love? God forgive us.
Jesus asks us to love unremittingly; nothing less will do. We realize our helplessness, our sinfulness; once again our desperate need for mercy, the mercy that he is, the mercy that he promises is always ours when we seek it.
Detail of an initial in an ancient Cistercian manuscript.