In connection with today’s Gospel reading, I recently read an article by a man name Francois Viljoen. He wrote about Matthew’s Gospel and the theme of righteousness. In today’s Gospel we hear about John who came “in the way of righteousness”. One of the main messages of the Gospel of Matthew is that the people, the audience, the readers or listeners, are called to be righteous – just as John the Baptist was righteous, just as Jesus was righteous.
Now, what is righteousness? According to the article, this word can have different meanings, and does have different meanings within the Bible. One meaning is that righteousness has to do with salvation, with being saved; another is that righteousness is about good conduct, right living. The writer of the Gospel of Matthew can be understood as using the term in the second sense, and so is encouraging the readers or listeners to be righteous in the sense of living well and doing the right things.
We can ask further: how can we be righteous in that sense? How can we live well and do what’s right? Righteousness includes doing good deeds – but that’s not all. It includes not only our outward deeds, but what is within us. It can also be understood as including repentance and living according to God’s will. In other words, yes, we strive to do the right thing; and we pray for goodness, rightness within us, in our hearts; and we ask God for help and ask for forgiveness when we fail; and we pray that we might discern and know God’s will, and so have a good sense of what is the right thing to do. That sounds like a lot! By the grace of God may we move toward such righteousness in our lives.
– Paul Robson SJ