I'd venture to say that unless you are reading this on death-row, most of us don't know too many murderers. How about adulterers? A few more hands. Shoplifters? More hands.
Truth be known, we are all murderers and adulterers and thieves and liars and greedy little people somewhere deep inside. It's part of our fallen nature. We have a tendency, an attraction, toward sin. It takes vigilance, grace, and work to keep on the right path and not just obey but embrace the commandments.
In the Gospel readings all this week Jesus has been drilling down in His Sermon on the Mount. He has been taking us deeper and deeper into the heart of God. He has been getting to the the heart of the matter; the heart.
Jesus is helping us realize that none of us, not even those on death row, simply wake up one day and decide to kill. None of us make a decision to commit adultery or steal simply on a whim. We don't decide to break a commandment in the same way we just decide to grab a Snickers in the check-out line.
All of these violations of the commandments begin somewhere deep in our hearts. Sin starts there like a vicious weed, it takes root and it grows wildly if not checked by grace and the sacraments, especially Confession and Communion.
In Jesus' example, thou shalt not kill, He illustrates that we must not only not murder someone we must not hate them. He further illustrates that we must not only not hate them, we must not be angry with them.
Why does He do this? Imagine a hole in your yard about 5 foot in diameter and 1000 feet deep. Now, you, being a loving friend and neighbor, warn everyone to stay out of the hole. Are there going to be people who get in the hole? YES, probably a few! So you, being a loving neighbor ask everyone to not go near the hole. Will people go near and get in the hole? YES, probably less than before! So you, being a loving neighbor, build a fence around the hole. Will people climb or cut the fence, get near, and get in the hole? YES, perhaps not many.
Jesus is pushing us, rather He is inviting us, to move back and build our own fence around the hole; sins. The further we can place ourselves from this danger, the happier we'll be and the world will be a better place.
The devil's mode of operation is this - toehold, foothold, stronghold. Jesus is teaching us that it's easier to fight off an attempted toehold, or even a foothold, than it is to oust the devil from a stronghold.
What sin do you struggle with most right now? How can you move back from the hole? What barriers can you place between you and the sin that will give you time to pause, recognize the temptation, and repent (turn around)? Jesus wants to help you with this sin, will you let Him?