12 February 20176 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
6 Ordinary Time
Sixth Sunday of the Year - A Cycle - Matthew 5:17-37

In 1962 came the Cuban missile crisis. It was a nuclear war stand off between the US and the USSR. In the event of attack, two thousand of the most important people in the US government were to be saved in a bomb shelter dug into a Virginia mountain. One VIP was Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. When he was handed his survival pass, Warren asked, "Where is my wife's?" He was told she was not a VIP. Smiling, he handed the pass back. "In that case," he said, "you have room for one more VIP." This is the type of marriage Jesus had in mind.

Jesus in this Gospel says, "Everyone who divorces his wife forces her to commit adultery. The man who marries a divorced woman likewise commits adultery." These words do not stir us nowadays. But, when Jesus spoke them way back then, they struck the first audiences as off the wall.

Nowhere in the 5000 years of recorded history was marriage

in worse shape than when Jesus came. Our own age, with its high divorce rate, would almost emerge as a golden age by comparison.

The world of Jesus witnessed marriage and family being destroyed. On the books, the Jews had a splendid view of marriage. Divorce was a no-no. God in the Book of Malachai had spoken on the question, "I hate divorce." Rabbis of course took their cue from this piece of advice. "The very altar sheds tears when a man divorces the wife of his youth," said they piously.

But the practice for the husband was a different matter altogether. The wife had to ride in the back of the bus and had no legal rights at all. She could not break the marriage bond. Her man could divorce her and put her out on the street for the slightest pretext. Her "crimes" might be these: if she put no salt in his stew, if she appeared out of doors without a babushka, if she bad-mouthed her mother-in-law, etc. (William Barclay)

Much to their financial chagrin, attorneys were not needed. All the husband had to do was write a note of divorce on the back of his laundry list in front of two friends. The marriage was history. Young women were reluctant to marry. Could you fault them?

Incidentally, they could not be so cavalier with their husbands.

When the Nazarene said no to divorce, He became the hero of every woman in Palestine. Was Jesus a feminist? You better believe it! The great wonder is that He was not killed by men long before His thirty-third birthday. That He was able to live so long was one of His greatest miracles. The Christian Gospel was liberating women and breaking the glass ceiling two thousand years ago. This was long before the term Women's Liberation came limping into our language.

What did Jesus have in mind when He spoke of marriage? For openers, Christian marriage is the union of two good forgivers. (Unknown) While marriages may be made in heaven, they have to be worked out on earth. Each party must be capable of receiving love and giving it. Arguments will come but they must be quickly buried. Reflect on Winston Churchill's advice. "If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future." Christ reminds couples happiness is two hearts pulling at one load. If couples go through life without experiencing pain, they probably haven't been born yet. (Neil Simon)

It was once taught marriage was a 50-50 proposition. But today we testify each must give a 100%. As Neil Diamond sings, "Selfishness is the reason for the decline in the number of husbands and wives." Many men are delighted to share their working wives' income but refuse to do their share of housework and caring for the children. These are classic male chauvinists.

Couples are reminded that chances of a good marriage are improved when it becomes a triangle - man, woman, and God.

In marriage, one binds oneself not to a job definition but to a person. Success in marriage is more than finding the right person. It is becoming the right person. (Unknown)

As for the fear of making a mistake, may God help those who won't marry until they find the perfect partner. And God help them when they do. If either wants a Good Housekeeping guarantee, that person should go live with a car battery. The faults of spouses we write on the sands. Their virtues on our heart. (Erma Bombeck)

Justice and Mrs Warren would remind couples while a wedding takes a day, a marriage takes a lifetime and a bit. 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
6 Ordinary Time
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Surpassing the Scribes and Pharisees

The Gospel readings for this Sunday is taken from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew's Gospel was written primarily for Christians who were grounded in the scripture and traditions of the ancient Hebrews--or simply Christians who had first been Jews. The gospel also focused on Jews who were considering becoming Christians as well as all who wanted to learn more about this New Way as our faith was first called.

Matthew's Gospel is structured with numerous references to the Torah, the most important part of the Hebrew Scripture. We know the Torah as the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In the Gospel of Matthew there are five main talks or discourses of the Lord modeled on the five books of the Law or the Torah. The first main discourse of the Law is the most important--the Sermon on the Mount. Just as Moses went up Mount Sinai to bring the Ten Commandments, God's Law to the people, Jesus climbs the mountain of the Beatitudes to present the New Law to the people.

Perhaps with this in mind we can understand Jesus's opening remarks in today's gospel: "I came not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them." In the eyes of the Lord the Hebrew Scripture are not only valid; they hold a place of greater reverence than ever before. But merely fulfilling the ancient law was not enough. The attitudes and lifestyles of the Christian must reflect living the law.

When he introduced the New Law of the Kingdom of God Jesus said something that was absolutely shocking. He said that the holiness of the people had to surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees. How could anyone be holier than the Pharisees? They dressed wearing numerous images of their religion--including phylacteries, or miniature lists of the ten commandments hung from their headbands so whenever they turned their head they would fulfill the law: keep these commandments always before your eyes. They fasted. They said loud prayers for all to hear. But Jesus said that his followers had to be holier than these holy Pharisees. How could that be possible? Well, Jesus explains, our external actions must be a reflection of what we really are like. If what we do is not a reflection of who we are, then we are hypocrites. Hypocrite, that’s the word that Jesus uses over and over to describe the Pharisees. Maybe we also used the word hypocrite when we were teenagers or young adults, applying it to those who were older than us who did not fulfill our ideals. Hypocrite is also a word that we all secretly fear others would use about each of us. To avoid being a hypocrite, our whole attitude in life must be Christian.

To demonstrate his point, Jesus contrasts the written law of the Torah with the new attitude of the Kingdom that must motivate this law. For example Jesus says, "You have heard it said that murder is wrong, but harboring hatred is also wrong even if you don't physically kill someone. Why? Because murder is conceived by hatred. The person who hates but does not murder is not a good person. He is just a person who has followed the social norms perhaps to avoid punishment. It is the same with all the laws and rules of the New Kingdom. The Lord's point is that following the law demands living the lifestyle that gives rise to the law. Living the life of the Lord motivates the Christian rather than the minimal performing the law.

It is important that we convey this message to our children. I know how adamant you all are to provide the best for your children. I also know how active you are in children's education. I and all your priests are edified by your efforts to be the best parents you can be. I want to re-enforce the efforts that I know you are making to have your children understand the motivation for their actions. Consider asking the children "why" a particular action is good or bad. For example, "I saw you playing with your cousin today and sharing your toys with him or her. That was very good. Do you know why? Because people are more important than our stuff." Or, "I heard that you went into your brother or sister's room and borrowed their toy and broke it. That was not good. Do you know why? Because you have to respect their possessions just as you want them to respect your possessions." "You did very well on your report card. That is very good. Do you know why? Because you are showing a respect for the gift God gave you by developing your mind."

Maybe we need to do the same thing for ourselves. For example, "I am here in Church. This is good. Why? Because I belong to God and He to me. I need to have this intimate union with Him in the Scripture and the Eucharist at least once a week." Or, "I really lost it with my spouse or my kids. This is bad. Why? Not just because anger is bad, but I sinned against the love that animates our family, the love which really is the Love of God."

You see, it is not in the action itself but it is in the motivation behind the action where the person's true identity is found and formed. We are called to take upon ourselves the very identity of Jesus Christ. We are called to be selfless givers. We are called to be eternal lovers of the Father. We are called to rejoice in His presence in our families. We are not called to be minimalists in the faith. We are called to develop the facility of finding meaning in the laws that God gave us so that our external actions might truly be a reflection of our internal attitudes.

So, is it easier to be a modern Christian than an ancient Jew? Absolutely not. Christianity is extremely demanding upon us all because it calls us to be 100% committed to living in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we make efforts to be wholesome, sincere, than our holiness, yours and mine, will surpass even that of the scribes and Pharisees.

Tall order. Absolutely. And that is why we are here today. We are here in prayer to ask God to help us be Christians.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
6 Ordinary Time
Hidden Wisdom Week 3- About Adultery, Murder & Perjury
(February 12, 2017)

Message: Lust, anger and equivocation have serious consequences...When we take our lives to the cross, we experience mercy and healing.
St. Paul says, "We speak God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden..." We see that hidden wisdom in today's Gospel. Jesus takes three evil acts - adultery, murder and perjury - and restates them in a radical way. In fact so radical that most of us would admit we have broken them. For sure, we would avoid adultery but who has not looked at another person with lust? Few have committed murder, but who has not despised some other person, calling him a fool? While not guilty of perjury who has never misled some other person?

We might ask what Jesus is doing here. For sure he is warning that evil acts begin in the heart, but there's more. He's unveiling radical evil: to treat another person as an object or to despise him. These bring deep and eternal separation. Jesus is telling us that, contrary to what many think, lust, anger and equivocation have serious consequences. These failings are difficult to avoid, but there is a remedy. It comes by way of hidden wisdom. As St. Paul indicates, hidden wisdom is the cross. When we take our lives to the cross, we experience mercy and healing.

This weekend we have a special invitation to the cross - to mercy and healing. It's about marriage which for most people involves the greatest source of joy and satisfaction - but also the cross. At the end of Mass we will have the blessing of those with marriage anniversaries in February - and also renewal of matrimony vows. In my 45 years as a priest, I am convinced that marital success does not come from couples being perfect but from going to the fount of mercy and healing, going to the cross.

I invite all of us this weekend - married, engaged, single, widowed, child or senior - approach the hidden wisdom of the cross:
What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,
this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. Amen

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
6 Ordinary Time
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Matthew 5: 17-37

Gospel Summary
This lengthy excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount echoes the note struck in last Sunday’s gospel where Matthew urged us to seek a more spiritual and personal ideal of moral behavior. Being keenly aware of the more conservative and traditional Jewish Christians in his community at Antioch, he defends their respect for the Mosaic Law and makes it clear that he does not in any sense reject the wisdom expressed there. However, Matthew is also aware that some scribes and Pharisees have emphasized only and eternal and material observance of that Law. And so he urges us to go beyond such inadequate observance because it represents, in a sense, a conversion of the hands and not the heart. The gospel passage of this Sunday then gives us two examples of how a merely external observance falls short of the ideal offered by Jesus. In the case of murder, he points out that it is not just the act that is reprehensible but that the sin is present already in the hatred that often leads to murder. In a similar manner, viewing another person as a sexual object is so demeaning that it is already a serious sin, even if it does not actually lead to adultery.

Life Implications
The ideal expressed in this gospel passage reminds us that external religious observance, though certainly important, will never suffice to make us authentic followers of Christ. It is relatively easy to observe rituals and to affirm doctrines but, unfortunately, such observance can easily co-exist with an interior attitude that is judgmental and unforgiving. As the gospel reminds us, reconciliation with the alienated people in our lives (and often families) is more important than meticulous, or even scrupulous, religious observance. What is required then is an interior conversion that recognizes one’s own shortcomings and is thus prepared to allow others to be imperfect also. What is most important, however, is an attitude of loving kindness that enables us to notice how others are hurting and which gladly reaches out to them, not because they deserve our help, but simply because they are in need and our hearts are sensitive to the fact. To love in this way is to be a child of that God who certainly loves us more than we deserve. As such, we will also be true followers of Jesus as we make his love present in our world. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Sixth Sunday of the Year, Modern
Lectionary 76, Gospel Matthew 5: 17-37

Today we open the scriptures to an exhortation from an inspired writer who shared the same name as our Lord: Jesus. More fully, his name was Jesus ben-Eleazar ben-Sira (Sir 50:27) and he wrote the words we hear in the first reading sometime in the opening decades of the second century before Christ. As a side note I find it interesting that different Catholic cultures show respect for the name of the Lord either by giving it to children (especially a first-born son in many Latino Catholic cultures) or by not giving it to children (in most European-based Catholic heritages) or even pronouncing it unnecessarily (often in "old school” Irish or German Catholic traditions). In any case, Jesus ben-Sira lived long before our Lord, and the name he held in common with Christ was one of the most common male names among Jews of his era.

Jesus ben-Sira was a man who had great reverence for the law of Moses and for the traditions of his people; he saw fidelity to the ways of the past as a guide and point of reference for present-day difficulties and questions. In keeping with his reverence for the Mosaic law and for history ben-Sira makes a statement which stands on its own merits as common sense but which is actually a reference to the book of Deuteronomy: "Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him” (Sir 15:17; cf. Deut 30:15, 19-20). This allusion to the Torah might have slipped by us as we read the scriptures or heard them proclaimed, but it certainly would not have escaped the notice of ben-Sira’s earliest readers. They would have immediately recognized the call to look to the law as the sure guide for living.

In this regard ben-Sira’s words provide a perfect introduction the Lord’s own preaching in the gospel, taken again this Sunday from the Sermon on the Mount. There our Lord makes it clear: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place” (Matt 5:17-18). But as soon as we think we understand that he is simply reaffirming the law the Lord states four times: "You have heard that it was said…but I say to you…” (Matt 5:21-37).

As he then teaches about anger, adultery, divorce, and false oaths we see that Jesus is bringing the law to perfection by demonstrating its full implications in two ways: first, he does so by fulfilling and extending them—showing their complete meaning and their great challenge; secondly he reveals that both for the Jewish people and for Christians faith is the key to the law. It was the faith of Abraham, whom St. Paul indeed describes as our father in faith (see Rom 4:11-12), that led the patriarchs to anticipate the law, the prophets to proclaim it, and sages like ben-Sira to extoll it. Borrowing from St. Paul again, we find that "Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom 3:21-22). Taking today’s scriptures together we learn that in Christ we must make a fundamental choice—as anticipated in Deuteronomy and Sirach—to place our faith in him so that the end to which the law was directed (drawing people ever closer to God) might be realized in us, and we might thus be numbered among those who inherit "the kingdom of heaven” (see Matt 5:19).

Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
6 Ordinary Time
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS
Today we have for our Gospel text a lengthy extract from the Sermon on the Mount. From the outset, Jesus makes it clear that he does not intend to abolish the old law but to perfect it. We see from his subsequent teaching that what he intends is definitely much more difficult than that which was expected from the people up to that point.

With each segment of his teaching Jesus goes a step further than the requirements of the old law. Just take the teaching on killing. Obviously, this was forbidden by the Law of Moses but now Jesus extends it to include anger. In this context, I suppose anger means not so much the expression of the emotion of anger but actively hating another person and showing aggression towards them.

The same goes for adultery which is expanded by Jesus to include looking lustfully at someone. Of course we can see what Jesus intends by this. He wants us to be pure of heart and not just to be people who conform to the outward letter of the law. He wants us to live good and wholesome lives and not be defined by the exact wording of a particular law.

So far so good, but what do we think when it comes to the teaching about tearing out your eye or cutting off your hand. What do we think when a little lustful glance is compared to adultery or if our temporary anger is equated with murder? I don't know about you but I start to get a bit queasy at thinking about these things.

I think that we must say at this point that Jesus does not mean us to take all this wholly literally; it is actually an example of what we call Biblical hyperbole. What we are dealing with is deliberate exaggeration for effect. Jesus uses these bizarre images in order to stress the utter seriousness of his words. If his words about plucking your eye out were taken literally the world would be full of blind people. This is clearly not the intention of Jesus.

We need to realise that Hebrew was a language which was prone to using figures of speech and exaggerated images. But we have this in our own language when we say things like, 'it's raining cats and dogs.' I remember saying this to my father once. His reply was, 'Would you go out and get me a poodle!'

We also have to consider the situation of the people Jesus was talking to and the milieu in which they lived. At the time there was an elite in power who were using religion as a way of furthering their own interests and at the same time the law was considered as something laid down and which required absolute conformity. But this conformity was to the letter of the law and not to its spirit.

This led to a situation in which a culture was built up whereby all kinds of egregious breaches of morality could occur which were not covered by particular laws and yet other kinds of trivial things were treated as very serious. Jesus himself was to fall foul on more than one occasion with the regulations on what was permissible or not on the Sabbath Day.

The so-called experts in the law could also find ways around it to excuse all sorts of bad behaviour on their part while the common man was kept firmly in his place.

What Jesus is proposing is a completely different way of looking at the law. As he says, he does not want to abolish it but to fulfil it. What he is doing is bringing individual conscience into play and not depending on a series of external regulations. Jesus wants each person to develop their own moral sensibility. He wants to sensitise each person and help them to come to a true understanding of what God wants.

This is a delicate process. On the one hand we want as few external laws as possible but instead we want each person to realise how to implement the demands of justice and to act properly in the moral sphere. Each person ought to come to the realisation of what is pleasing to God rather than slavishly following a set of rules laid down by the High Priests.

The dramatic words about cutting off our hands or plucking out our eyes gets our attention and points out how absolutely necessary it is for us to do the right thing. Ultimately it is far more than our eye or our hand that is at stake, it is our eternal welfare. Doing evil in God's sight leads us on the road to hell, while following his ways takes us on the royal road to heaven. Nothing could be more serious than this.

I just want to point out how important habit is when it comes to sin. It is very easy for us to commit a new sin once, just to try it out as it were; all the time thinking that we can easily repent of it later. However, the problem is that when we go ahead and commit this sin we start to tell ourselves that it is not so serious and that no one else is suffering much as a result. It then becomes easier to commit this sin a second time.

Soon we find ourselves habituated to the particular sin and commit it over and over again without being concerned about it at all. This is a serious trap set for us by the evil one and it is very easy for us to fall into it.

The only way out is to make a determined effort to pull ourselves away from this bad habit and ask the advice of the priest in the confessional as to how to cope with it.

In the past I have often seen how people fall into this trap with things such as shoplifting and theft from the workplace. But nowadays the problem of internet pornography is becoming ever more prevalent. We might look at inappropriate websites intending it to be on one single occasion but then find that we are returning to them time after time. Before you know it, we discover that our behaviour has developed into a full scale addiction and we can't get out of the habit. The best thing, of course, is never to go there in the first place.

Sin is very prevalent in the world of today and we have to do our best to keep ourselves free from it. Of course, we will never eradicate entirely our being drawn into sin but we can work hard to keep it to a minimum.

It is good to live a life free from guilt, it is liberating to act only according to God's laws. It is life-enhancing to live a good and moral life. It is good for us and it is good for everyone around us.
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