Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain." So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." He went up and looked, and said, "There is nothing." Then he said, "Go again seven times." At the seventh time he said, "Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person's hand is rising out of the sea." Then he said, "Go say to Ahab, 'Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'" In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was a heavy rain. Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; he girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
Jesus said to his disciples, "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.
Today's gospel has a sharp edge to it. The language Jesus uses is strange to our ears, 'If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away…' Jesus is speaking in a exaggerated way to get our attention; he clearly does not intend to be taken literally. This image of tearing out our right eye links back to his understanding of adultery not just as a physical act but as an intention or a desire, 'whoever looks at a woman lustfully… .' Jesus goes behind the actions that the Ten Commandments prohibit to the roots of those actions in the human heart. This is the deeper virtue that he referred to a few verses earlier. Jesus calls for not just a change of behaviour but a change of heart, a purifying of desire and intention.
This interior transformation is understood elsewhere in the Scriptures to be the work of the Spirit. It is the Spirit of God who renews the human heart. It is above all in prayer that we open ourselves to the Spirit of God. As Elijah in the first reading sought out the mountain of God, we need to seek out the mountain of prayer. On the mountain, Elijah experienced the presence of the Lord in 'the sound of a gentle breeze', as another translation expresses it 'in the sound of sheer silence.' It is above all in silence that we seek the Lord's face, in the words of today's responsorial psalm, and open ourselves to the coming of the Lord's Spirit, who works within us to create in us a heart that reflects the heart of Jesus.