It even happens that sometimes, without wishing it and without even the shadow of a bad intention, we work against one another. The remedy for these inevitable failures, when the limitations of our nature are the cause of mutual distress, is that suggested by St. Augustine: “dilatentur spatia caritatis,” let more room be given to charity. In other words, let us enlarge our hearts by greater love, in order that we may better understand and sympathize with one another. Let us likewise practice greater humility, in order to overcome the resentments of our self-love. Even if someone does act against us with ill will, we should know how to forgive him, according to the words of the Apostle: “Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing... But if also you suffer anything for justice’ sake, blessed are ye... Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts.”
The Gospel (Mt 5,20-24) repeats and intensifies the same instruction. First of all Jesus tells us: “Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This is a clear allusion to the new law, the law of love, given to us by Jesus Himself and far surpassing the simple law of justice. We cannot content ourselves, as the Pharisees did, with simply not doing harm to our neighbour; we must practice toward him a positive, fraternal charity. It is not enough “not to kill” in order to escape “the judgment,” the Master teaches, but “whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment.” Another aspect of the new law proposed by Jesus concerns our interior dispositions. It is useless to make an exterior display of goodness if this does not proceed from a good conscience, a sincere heart. It does not suffice to avoid giving outward offense to our neighbour; we must avoid, or rather, repress our inner resentment. The Pharisees, with their materialistic interpretation of the law, had completely lost its spirit; they had forgotten that the eyes of the Lord are always upon us and that He sees our intentions as well as our acts. Anger and resentment that smoulder in our heart do not escape Him. At the same time, Jesus asks great delicacy of us in all our exterior dealings with our neighbour. He demands that we avoid not only offensive acts but even words that might hurt another. Charity and fraternal harmony meant so much to Him that He did not hesitate to tell us: “If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother.” How much Our Lord loves us! St. John Chrysostom remarks very aptly: “He does not take account of His own honour, when He requires us to love our neighbour. ‘Let My worship be interrupted,’ He says, ‘but re-establish your charity.’” Indeed, how can our prayers and sacrifices be pleasing to God when something interferes with perfect harmony between ourselves and our neighbour?