My brethren, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to them,
"I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Often we hear of a mountain as the place where God was encountered in a transforming moment of grace. In today's reading Paul reminds us of Mount Sinai, where Moses stayed with the Lord for forty days and he wrote the words of the covenant on the tablets of stone; then, as he came down from Mount Sinai, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant (Exod 34:28-29) so he had to veil his face whenever he met with the people. According to Paul, we join Moses on the Holy Mount, and enter into the immediate presence of Jesus. We enter behind the veil, opened up by Jesus' death on the cross (Matthew 27:51) and where there is true freedom. Paul develops this idea into a profound mystical theology, in a way freely open to everyone. All of us gazing on the Lord's glory with unveiled faces, are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image by the Lord who is glory.
Then there is the famous Mount of the Beatitudes overlooking the Lake of Galilee, where Jesus delivers the extensive Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chaps. 5-7). He tells us how to see his glory and so to be transformed to be like him: "Do not grow angry, do not use abusive language, do not offer a gift on the altar without first being reconciled with neighbour." This advice may seem too elementary, ever to place us on the road to mystical experiences like Moses or Elijah or Jesus. Yet, it is charity, patience and forgiveness that draws us to Mount Calvary where Jesus died, that tore open the veil that separated us from the Holy of Holies, and that enables us like Moses to converse with God.
Jesus calls for a virtue that goes deeper than the virtue of the scribes and the Pharisees. He is looking for a virtue that is at the level of attitude and feeling and not simply at the level of action. The ten commandments relate to actions which are to be done or, for the most part, not to be done. Jesus quotes one of the commandments at the beginning of our gospel reading, "You shall not kill." What Jesus goes on to prohibit is not just the action of killing but the kinds of attitudes and emotions that can led people to kill one another. He warns against anger towards others and the perception of others that leads us to refer to them as fools.
We might be tempted to think of the commandment, "Do not kill," as not really relevant to us because the likelihood of any of us killing somebody is very remote. However, when Jesus speaks about the deeper level of emotion, attitude and perception, we cannot distance ourselves so easily. We have all experienced anger and can recognize its destructive power even in ourselves. We have all perceived some people in ways that lead us to speak of them or to them in a manner that is disrespectful. Even though we may differ from others at the level of action, when it comes to that underlying or deeper level that Jesus talks about in the gospel we all have much more in common. That virtue at the deeper level that drives our actions is one we are all constantly striving to attain. In calling for this deeper virtue Jesus was aware that it can only be attained with God's help, with the help of the Holy Spirit, whose power at work within us can begin to shape all we do and how and why we do it.