“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” – Mt. 5:20

Alright Jesus, I get that when you speak about the “Kingdom of heaven” you are not talking what happens when we die. It took me a really long time to understand that and to recover from the childhood image I had of a God who would “reward” me with “heaven” if I was, well... “righteous.” At the same time, a gospel like today’s is still kind of confusing. It’s difficult for me to grasp just what the invitation is from you, Jesus, when you use a word like “righteousness.”

Pause. Deep breath.

So, what really is this “righteousness” you are inviting me to?

As I began to let today’s gospel stir in my guts and in my soul, for some reason a line from Rabia, an 8th Century Sufi mystic came to me. “One day God did not leave after kissing me,” Rabia writes to describe a form of intimacy with the Source of Life that, quite frankly, gives me goosebumps. Could it be, Intimate God, that you are inviting me to a love that is beyond exquisite? Could it be a type of love where all words fall short, and all we can do is grasp for some type of metaphor to describe it?

I’ve been spoiled enough to have some recent experiences in prayer during which I’ve felt overwhelmed by the sensation of total belovedness welling up within me. At the same time, I have plenty of days when I forget the Sacred Indwelling and I return to being overly focused on external religious piety in hope of receiving some “reward.” The effects are pretty straightforward: when I’m tapped into the exquisite love of God, I then cannot help but reconcile relationships that need reconciliation, which in turn allows me, in the words of today’s gospel, to “offer my gift.” It’s a cycle that is accessible each day. Step 1) I tap into exquisite love; step 2) I cannot help but let go of anger or qualms; and step 3) my life can become an offering. Next day: start at step one.

But it all has to start with God not leaving after kissing me. Is that not righteousness?

How, and how often, am I tapping into the exquisite love?

Tony Cortese

Photo Credit: Tara Bazille