COR THOUGHTS 190: In the Sermon on the Mount the Spirit Gives New Form to Our Desires

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In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). What would these words have sounded like to the Jews who heard them? The Scribes and the Pharisees were considered the most righteous of all. The problem was, in Saint John Paul II’s language, while they conformed to the ethic, their ethos was far from God. An ethic is an external norm or rule. Ethos refers to a person’s inner world of values, what attracts and repulses him deep in the heart. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ is not only confirming God’s ethical code, he is calling us to a new ethos. We could read Christ’s words about adultery, for example, as follows: “You’ve heard the ethic not to commit adultery, but the problem is your ethos is off: you desire to commit adultery.” So what are we supposed to do? This is precisely where the Gospel becomes good news: we are not left to our own flaws, weaknesses, and sinfulness. In the “Sermon on the Mount … the Spirit of the Lord gives new form to our desires, those inner movements that animate our lives” (CCC 2764). Come, Holy Spirit! Come give new form to our desires!