GOSPEL Matt. 5:20-24 At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: “Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to them of old: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ And whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. 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 anything 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.”
Thus are the words of today’s Holy Gospel, the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost.
Too harsh? Jesus teaches that the phrase, “Thou Fool,” uttered toward someone who probably fits the description, is mortal sin. Which means it is indeed mortal sin, since Our Lord is not a liar. He is Truth.
This was much studied by the Fathers of the Church, and their conclusions centered on the impossibility of a divided heart giving due worship to God. If we offer ourselves at the altar while knowingly defecting from Him in any way, we fail to give Him due worship. We should detest even our venial sins in preparation for receiving Him. Since God loves every rational being he has created, no matter their faults, we are called to mirror His model. He doesn’t love their bad behavior, and neither should we, but the person, yes.
Charity is a supernatural virtue, because it has God as its ultimate object. When we speak of fraternal charity, the fruit of the second joyful mystery (the Visitation), we are talking about the second Great Commandment, loving neighbor as yourself. But this fraternity is worldly and false unless it too has God as its final object. If God is left out of the equation and the fraternity is solely for fraternity’s sake, this becomes the deification of man, Freemasonry, Bergoglian False Fraternity. The reason it’s the second Great Commandment is because love of God directly is the first.
Every person is created in the image of God. We are taught to hate evil, not people. Evil behavior is what needs to be called out, in the desire of turning people away from it. But we fail when we inexorably bind the behavior to the person, because this is a denial of the economy of salvation, even if the person is persisting obstinantly in their error.
Have you ever prayed for your enemies? Honestly and with fervor prayed for someone persecuting you in real time? You should try it, because you can’t imagine how liberating it is, and pleasing to God. It greatly helps get you through the temporal tribulation, and may help the other person too. It might be the first time in their lives they’ve had someone to pray for them.
Then there is the problem of forgiveness. Do you hold onto grudges? Do you ruminate in resentment? Allow resentment to descend into contempt? If so, you are in mortal sin, even if the other person rightly deserves the scorn objectively. Forgiveness is everything, and it’s the biggest tool for self-help that is so widely ignored. You have a duty to forgive, and again the theology of this is tied up in God being the object of charity, and God being Love Himself. There are few things we can do that bring as much peace as forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve forgiveness… and for good reason, if you think about it: It’s the most Christ-like thing we can do. It’s Christ Himself, on the Cross, and in the Confessional.
“You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.” -Matt 5:43-45
“Mercy is easy for those who love, since love begets understanding. And where there is understanding of motives and of the forces of temptation, a person is slow to condemn or rebuke anyone of any race. “In the treasures of wisdom is understanding” (Eccli. 1:26). Besides, to know oneself is to know how hard it is to change, how easily feelings blind one’s thinking, how ready a person is to defend himself and to claim exceptions for his own benefit. From such truth and humility spring compassion, forgiveness, and considerate speech.”
5 thoughts on “The real meaning of hate speech: “Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.””
Thank you, Mark, for posting this. Some of the points hit the target uncomfortably close range. Ouch!
Cathy, me too.
I think God uses “fool” as a descriptor but men use it a a pejorative to insult others. That’s because the Bible is full of passages that call people fools and treat foolishness as an objective trait and not a mere insult.
Thanks Mark. Always a good reminder, as is the Pater Noster.
What I’ve learned about myself the last few years, is that I’ve confused indifference with forgiveness. Don’t know if anyone else has experienced this….but it’s been a difficult lesson for me.
This passage is used far too often as a “proof text” and a cover for sinful behavior. Yes, using pejoratives can be sinful when said with a hateful heart. We need to keep in context the preceding passage in which our Lord tells us to rebuke the evildoer, and if he does not repent to put him out. The modernist insists on God’s infinite mercy, and ignores His infinite justice.