Category Archives: According to Matthew

Life in Christ: The Beatitudes

“Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34). Certainly, our entire goal and purpose in life is to hear these words at our judgment. This blessed state, the beatific vision, is only given by the pure grace of God, and we are told throughout the Scriptures in what kind of life this blessedness is prefigured and what kind of life, likewise, leads to the fulfillment of our end.

“Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night” (Psalm 1).

It is well that we meditate on the law of Christ, and there is no place we find this more profoundly written than in the Sermon on the Mount, especially as given in Matthew’s Gospel in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters.  “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set down, his disciples came unto him. And opening his mouth, he taught them…” (Matt 5:1-2)

In Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth Volume I, he says, reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount, that “In a word, the true morality of Christianity is Love.” (p.99) “The law of the Lord” is therefore none other than the law of Christ, which is why the pope can say just before this that “…the Sermon on the Mount is a hidden Christology.” (p.99)

While it is true that there are certainly objective “dos and don’ts in the way we should live, these are a means, and not the end.  The end is love, for the end is God, and “God is love” (1John4:8). In fact, the verse stated in full says that “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  “…in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12).

Let us focus here on that first part of the Sermon, the beatitudes.

“Each beatitude contains two parts; the first part refers to a meritorious act, and the second part refers to a reward. The reward applies primarily to the life to come, and yet there is likewise the promise of happiness even in this life.” (Spiritual Theology, Jordan Aumann)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3-10).

Many deep and profound works have been composed on the beatitudes, and it probably compares with John’s prologue in the depth of not only what it can say to us but, and for this reason, the available material written on it.

St. Augustine showed brilliantly that, being no mere list of platitudes, each beatitude leads to the next. St. Thomas Aquinas links them with the three types of life in which we hope to find happiness: the life of pleasure, the active life, and the contemplative life, moving from one to the next as we grow. Servias Pinckaers, in his little book, The Pursuit of Happiness God’s Way, tells us that “We can literally say that the Gospel teaches us a morality of beatitude or blessedness.”

To truly understand any of this, we must make it our primary task in life to know Christ. As Thomas a Kempis says in The Imitation of Christ, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, saith the Lord. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how far we must imitate His life and character, if we seek true illumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Let it be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life of Jesus Christ.” (The Imitation of Christ, Bk I, Ch 1)

This in fact could be seen as a commentary on the first Psalm; “Blessed is the man who, on his law, shall meditate day and night” This is the way of those that love God and neighbor, and live in Christ, seeing Christ in others and loving them.

We are told, in the Sermon, something that should sound alarming, even shocking, to us, if we take it seriously.  “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt 5:20) He goes on to command us to “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:28)

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set down, his disciples came unto him. And opening his mouth, he taught them…” (Matt 5:1-2) This is the way we are introduced to the Sermon on the Mount, which has often been called a summary of the Gospel.  And the beatitudes, first in the Sermon, have been called a summary of the Sermon on the Mount.  We could easily devote our entire study to them, and in fact, several of the major religious orders see them as the primary subject of meditation and contemplation, both at the beginning of the religious life and throughout.

Of course, upon first reading the beatitudes, we may find it difficult to make sense of them, seeing them as perhaps nothing more than pious platitudes. “Blessed are the poor? Blessed are those who mourn?”

The first thing we must see is that these are not a random list of “blesseds.” When we read the commentary of such saints as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, we see a remarkable unity and order to the beatitudes.  As Fr. Pinkaers says in reflecting on Augustine’s commentary, “St. Augustine establishes an ascending order of beatitudes…The journey begins with humility, taught in the first beatitude, and gradually mounts, passing through a loving and docile openness to the Word of God, …to wisdom or the contemplation of truth which gives peace to man and makes him like God” (p.189-190).

In other words, the entire spiritual life can be seen to be contained in the beatitudes.  Likewise, all of Christian morality can be found in the beatitudes.  The rest of the Sermon on the Mount, in fact, is an exposition of particulars and application of that which is contained in the beatitudes.  Thus, before Jesus goes on to give us examples of living out this spirituality, He says, “Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matt 5:17)

What follows the beatitudes, although we will hear the words “You have heard it said…but I say to you,” are not intended to abolish, but to fulfill, what is said in the Old Law, in the Torah, in the Ten Commandments.  The heart, reflecting upon the beatitudes, and conforming itself with them, will understand the entire Sermon on the Mount as showing forth what the Old Law always intended; a heart formed by love, and not a list of rules to be followed merely out of fear.”

As the first Psalm says, we are blessed when we meditate on the law of the Lord. The beatitudes likewise tell us we are blessed, because, conforming our hearts to Christ, we begin to live with, through, and in Him, and this is the goal of our striving. “Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.”

The first Psalm has often been my prayer when I do not have time to read and pray the entire Sermon on the Mount.  I have found it to contain what the Didache, a very early Christian writing from the first century (or at the latest, the early second century,) calls “the two ways.”

“There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy.” (The Didache, opening sentences)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10).

This is the “first way, the one of life.” We said earlier that “The law of the Lord” is therefore none other than the law of Christ, and that “In a word, the true morality of Christianity is Love.” Therefore the Didache tells us that “The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself.”

No one is more blessed than Christ, for He, as man, was graced in a way no other, could be. Grace reaches its full limit in the incarnate Christ both intensively and extensively.The grace of Christ can be looked at in two ways. As the son of God and the person of a divine nature His grace is infinite because the word himself is infinite and is the source of that grace. But as existing in a created subject which is Christ soul, and humanity in total, it is finite, although it is given the most perfect way possible to any human being. As perfect it can in some way be called infinite even here.

To live a life of the beatitudes means to live a life in Christ. Like the apparent contradiction of the beatitudes (blessed are the poor, the hungry, the mourning), our life is only truly fulfilled when we die to self. “Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God: Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth. For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then you also shall appear with him in glory” (Col 3:1-4).

Sermon on the Mount Part 6

The first Psalm has often been my prayer when I do not have time to read and pray the entire Sermon on the Mount.  I have found it to contain what the Didache, a very early Christian writing from the first century (or at the latest, the early second century,) calls “the two ways.”

“There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy.” (The Didache, opening sentences)

We opened our study of the Sermon on the Mount a few weeks ago with the first two verses of Psalm 1.

“Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night.”(Psalm 1:1-2)

This is the “first way, the one of life.” We said earlier that “The law of the Lord” is therefore none other than the law of Christ, and that “In a word, the true morality of Christianity is Love.” Therefore the Didache tells us that “The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself.”

What is the result of this Love of God and of neighbor?” The beatitudes tell us that “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” and “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

The third verse of the Psalm tells us “And he shall be like a tree which is planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season. And his leaf shall not fall off: and all whosoever he shall do shall prosper.” This is not necessarily worldly prosperity, but eternal. Planted near running waters, we will bring forth the fruit of our labors.  We will be like “unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.” (Matt 7:24) “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

But the Psalm continues, with the second way, the “one of death.”  “Not so the wicked, not so: but like the dust, which the wind driveth from the face of the earth. Therefore the wicked shall not rise again in judgment: nor sinners in the council of the just.” (Psalm 1:4-5) ”Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Matt 7:17-18)

For the Lord knoweth the way of the just: and the way of the wicked shall perish. (Psalm 1:6)

Sermon on the Mount Part 5

Last week we examined, in light of the early Christian writings, what we might call the first part of the Lord’s Prayer.  “Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” The first part of the prayer is centered on God the Father and His will. We therefore say “Thy Name,” “Thy Kingdom,”  “Thy Will.” This can be seen as a parallel with the Ten commandments, the first of which are about justice towards God, whereas the second “tablet” dealt with our justice towards one another.

In a similar way, the second half of the Lord’s Prayer reflects on our needs, as a community, from God. “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

If we didn’t notice from the start the fact that we begin this prayer not with “My Father” but “Our Father,” it should become obvious here that the prayer Jesus taught us is one of community, and not primarily individualistic.  In fact there is no “I” or “me” in the prayer at all.

We again turn to the fathers for wisdom and insight: “Before all things, the Teacher of peace and the Master of unity would not have prayer to be made singly and individually, as for one who prays to pray for himself alone. For we say not “My Father, which art in heaven,” nor “Give me this day my daily bread; “nor does each one ask that only his own debt should be forgiven him; nor does he request for himself alone that he may not be led into temptation, and delivered from evil. Our prayer is public and common; and when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one. The God of peace and the Teacher of concord, who taught unity, willed that one should thus pray for all, even as He Himself bore us all in one.” (Treatise of St. Cyprian on the Lord’s Prayer)

In fact, in Matthew’s Gospel, at the conclusion of the prayer, Jesus adds, almost as if to strengthen the bond of unity and charity taught here, “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” (Matt 6:14-15)

Much could be said of each petition in particular, of course, but here we must emphasize the point so often neglected in our individualistic society.  We close our thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer with wise words of St. Augustine, given as part of his “Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount”; “And thanks be to the mercy of Him who requires this of us, that He should be our Father, a relationship which can be brought about by no expenditure of ours, but solely by God’s goodwill. Here also there is an admonition to the rich and to those of noble birth, so far as this world is concerned, that when they have become Christians they should not comport themselves proudly towards the poor and the low of birth; since together with them they call God “Our Father,” an expression which they cannot truly and piously use, unless they recognize that they themselves are brethren.”

We have touched upon Psalm 1 when reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount, as it is about reflecting on “The law of the Lord,” which is brought to fulfillment in Christ and explained in the Sermon. Next week, we will reflect on it as a short way to meditate on all that has been said thus far.

Sermon on the Mount Part 4

What reflection on the Sermon of the Mount would be complete with meditating on the Our Father? And what better guide than to meditate on it with our fathers in the faith?  We will here examine some of the writings of St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyprian, and St. Augustine and see both the communal and personal importance of this prayer in the Church and in our individual prayer life.

“What praying to the Father can be more truthful than that which was delivered to us by the Son who is the Truth, out of His own mouth? So that to pray otherwise than He taught is not ignorance alone, but also sin;” (Treatise of Cyprian on the Lord’s Prayer) Now, St. Cyprian is not telling us that to use any other words in pray besides that strictly in the Our Father is wrong, but we can glean two important insights here.

First, there is untold depth in the prayer itself.  One could meditate for their entire life on the first words, pondering what it is to be able to call God “Father, Abba, Daddy.”  “See how He straightway stirred up the hearer, and reminded him of all God’s bounty in the beginning. For he who calls God Father, by him both remission of sins, and taking away of punishment, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, and adoption, and inheritance, and brotherhood with the Only-Begotten, and the supply of the Spirit, are acknowledged in this single title. For one cannot call God Father, without having attained to all those blessings.” (Chrysostom, Homily 19 on Matthew)

Our Father, Who art in Heaven. St. Chrysostom continues “He says, “in Heaven,” He speaks not this as shutting up God there, but as withdrawing him who is praying from earth, and fixing him in the high places, and in the dwellings above.” Our goal is to be in Heaven with God, and that God’s creation is fulfilled, as we were in the beginning to be partners with Him in bringing about the fruits of creation. “And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28).

The separation of Heaven and earth was not intended in the beginning, but was caused by our sin.  Jesus teaches us here we can now, through Him, call God our Father. But as we lost our vision of God through sin, which is nothing more than a turning away from God, we must now pray that we do not fall back to that state.  We, therefore continue, “Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Space prevents us from doing any more than scratching the surface of the depths of this prayer. Indeed, volumes have been written over the last two thousand years by those who have reflected deeply upon the Our Father, and yet it’s depths have scarcely been searched. We shall continue next week.

Sermon on the Mount Part 3

I’d like to turn our attention to a topic from the second part of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus begins His “But I say to you” expositions. “But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.” (Matt 5:22-24)

We see the clearest application of this in the Mass. In the primitive church the kiss of peace was offered after the first part of the Mass and before the Eucharist. In the Western Church the sign of peace was moved quite early to where it was as Augustine described it, and to where it is today. The Western Church saw a close link between peace and communion–peace with one another before receiving the Prince of Peace, as can be easily inferred from the passage above. For reasons beyond the scope of our meditation, in the middle ages the laity were excluded from the sign of peace and it was then dropped altogether. Vatican II, however, restored the ancient rite of peace to all who participate at Mass.

The most important thing we may take away from this is that God is a father, and a father cannot be pleased with his children when they offer him love while not loving their brothers and sisters. St. John tells us in a letter, “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother, abideth in the light, and there is no scandal in him.” (1 John 2:9-10)

For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.  Deal favourably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up. Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar. (Psalm 50:18-21 DR)

Interpreted in light of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we do not offer it merely in its objective form (which is of course always perfect, being the perfect Sacrifice of Christ) but, with a contrite and humble heart.  And one cannot have a contrite and humble heart and yet hate his brother. Humility and meekness will lead us to see our own faults, the “beam in our own eye” (cf. Matt 7:3) and, in turn, remove our judgment of others.” For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (Matt 7:2)

We see here an application of the beatitudes (Blessed are the meek), explained in the Sermon, and lived in the life of the Church.  We would do well to reflect on the Sermon often, and let these things come to light in our hearts.

Sermon on the Mount Part 2

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set down, his disciples came unto him. And opening his mouth, he taught them…” (Matt 5:1-2) This is the way we are introduced to the Sermon on the Mount, which has often been called a summary of the Gospel.  And the beatitudes, first in the Sermon, have been called a summary of the Sermon on the Mount.  We could easily devote our entire study to them, and in fact, several of the major religious orders see them as the primary subject of meditation and contemplation, both at the beginning of the religious life and throughout.

Of course, upon first reading the beatitudes, we may find it difficult to make sense of them, seeing them as perhaps nothing more than pious platitudes. “Blessed are the poor? Blessed are those who mourn?”

The first thing we must see is that these are not a random list of “blesseds.” When we read the commentary of such saints as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, we see a remarkable unity and order to the beatitudes.  As Fr. Pinkaers says in reflecting on Augustine’s commentary, “St. Augustine establishes an ascending order of beatitudes…The journey begins with humility, taught in the first beatitude, and gradually mounts, passing through a loving and docile openness to the Word of God, …to wisdom or the contemplation of truth which gives peace to man and makes him like God” (p.189-190).

In other words, the entire spiritual life can be seen to be contained in the beatitudes.  Likewise, all of Christian morality can be found in the beatitudes.  The rest of the Sermon on the Mount, in fact, is an exposition of particulars and application of that which is contained in the beatitudes.  Thus, before Jesus goes on to give us examples of living out this spirituality, He says, “Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matt 5:17)

What follows the beatitudes, although we will hear the words “You have heard it said…but I say to you,” are not intended to abolish, but to fulfill, what is said in the Old Law, in the Torah, in the Ten Commandments.  The heart, reflecting upon the beatitudes, and conforming itself with them, will understand the entire Sermon on the Mount as showing forth what the Old Law always intended; a heart formed by love, and not a list of rules to be followed merely out of fear.”

As the first Psalm says, we are blessed when we meditate on the law of the Lord. The beatitudes likewise tell us we are blessed, because, conforming our hearts to Christ, we begin to live with, through, and in Him, and this is the goal of our striving. “Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.”

Sermon on the Mount Part 1

Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night. (Psalm 1)

It is well that we meditate on the law of Christ, and there is no place we find this more profoundly written than in the Sermon on the Mount, especially as given in Matthew’s Gospel in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters.  “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set down, his disciples came unto him. And opening his mouth, he taught them…” (Matt 5:1-2)

In Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth Volume I, he says, reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount, that “In a word, the true morality of Christianity is Love.” (p.99) “The law of the Lord” is therefore none other than the law of Christ, which is why the pope can say just before this that “…the Sermon on the Mount is a hidden Christology.” (p.99)

Too often we are of the opinion that morality is a set of rules.  While it is true that there are certainly objective “dos and don’ts in the way we should live, these are a means, and not the end.  The end is love, for the end is God, and “God is love.” (1John4:8) In fact, the verse stated in full says that “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  Therefore, our focus in the weeks that follow will be to learn the truth that “…in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 7:12)

To truly understand any of this, we must make it our primary task in life to know Christ. As Thomas a Kempis says in The Imitation of Christ, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, saith the Lord. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how far we must imitate His life and character, if we seek true illumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Let it be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life of Jesus Christ.”

This in fact could be seen as a commentary on the first Psalm; “Blessed is the man who, on his law, shall meditate day and night” We will return many times to the first Psalm in the course of our reflections, for it is a short prayer that reflects on our ultimate end, of which there are only two.  There is the way of those that love God and neighbor, and live in Christ, seeing Christ in others and loving them.  Those who live in Christ are made righteous, and will inherit the Kingdom of God. “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”

We are told, in the Sermon, something that should sound alarming, even shocking, to us, if we take it seriously.  “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt 5:20) He goes on to command us to “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:28)

“And Jesus beholding, said to them: With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible.” Thanks be to God and the grace merited by His Son on our behalf. Let us thank “Our Father, Who art in Heaven…”

Lord’s Prayer and forgiving others

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
On the line “forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors,” He later expounds:

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, «Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?»

Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.

At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’

Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.

When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’

Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.

Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.

His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.

Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

We see, then, that forgiving others is a requirement, no optional, for entering Heaven. In the short prayer we call the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer, it is explicitly stated. Besides Matthew 18, quoted above, it is of note that, immediately after the Lord’s Prayer as given in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus chooses only one part of the prayer to immediately highlight:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Without forgiveness, there is no entering Heaven.  Without forgiving others, there is no forgiveness.  It is not a “Jesus and Me” religion, but one of brotherhood.

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 31-46)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)