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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Sirach 15:15-20
Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34 (1b)
1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Matthew 5:17-37
February 16, 2020

God had given the Ten Commandments through Moses.  Moses told them that if they followed the commandments they would live.  If they did not, they would perish.  This is not simply God punishing them for sin.  The commandments help us to live a good life.

Sirach gives similar advice.  He reminds the people that they have a  choice three times in today’s reading, starting with, “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you, if you trust in God, you too shall live.” 

We are free to choose whatever we want but we must remember there are always consequences to our choices.  If we make good choices, the consequences are good (as we hear in our responsorial verse today, “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord.”). 

It can feel like a burden to follow the Law.  If it were easy, everyone would.  Even when we try to be good, we might wish we didn’t have to follow all the Commandments. 

But the Law is good!  When properly understood, the Law is not a burden but a gift.  It is in this spirit that Jesus says, “I have come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill.

We need the Lord to instruct us in his ways so that we “may exactly observe them.”  We ask the Lord to give us “discernment” to know how to apply the Law in our lives.

This is what Jesus does in his teaching (we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us too). 

Today’s gospel comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  As Jesus comes “not to abolish but to fulfill,” he teaches us what the Law means.

Jesus calls us to a higher observance of the Law when He says, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.

He is not telling us that our goal should be to be better than the scribes and the Pharisees.  Our goal is to do what is right in God’s eyes.  Jesus is just telling us that the example of many of the scribes and Pharisees is not good enough.

To be righteous in God’s eyes, we need to understand what is behind the Law.  Jesus says not even “the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law.”  We need to keep the whole of the Law but we can only do that when we understand it.

Jesus continues with the Commandment, “You shall not kill.”  Except for questions of abortion and physician assisted suicide, there is common agreement that killing is wrong. 

Jesus takes it a step further when He tells us not even to be angry.  Ouch!  That is hard.  People do things that make us angry.  It can seem natural to get angry.  At times it might even seem appropriate.  If somebody does something wrong, shouldn’t we get angry?  Even Jesus got angry with the money changers in the temple.

The question is do we let the anger control us.  We need to stand up for what Jesus teaches us but not to respond with violence.  Instead, we are called to respond with love and compassion to help others. 

Otherwise, the anger keeps us from feeling love.

Jesus goes on to the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.”  Our faith teaches us that physical intimacy is something unique and special between a man and a woman who are married to each other.  It is to be an expression of their love and their total self-giving to one another.

Jesus raises the bar when He takes the Commandment against adultery and says don’t even look at another person with “lust.” 

That might seem difficult.  Again, it might seem natural to notice the beauty of another person. 

Jesus specifically uses the word “lust”.  The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines “lust” as “an inordinate desire for or enjoyment of sexual pleasure.”

Lust involves looking at the other person not as a person but as an object that might bring us physical pleasure.  As such, lust is counter to love, especially the committed love intended for marriage.

So what are we to do?  How do we stop sinning?

Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” 

That might seem very extreme (in fact it is).  We need to pay careful attention to Jesus’ words.  He specifically says if it causes us to sin.  Do our eyes ever cause us to sin?  No!  Our eyes might be involved in sins like lust but the eyes do not cause the sin.  We can lust for someone without seeing them.

Likewise, Jesus says, “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and throw it away.”  Has your hand ever caused you to sin?

What we do need to do is reflect on what causes us to sin.  Do we have friends that cause us to sin?  Do we need different friends?  We should seek friends who share good values.

Do we go places that lead us to sin?  Can we stay away from those places?

Here we might also ask ourselves if we lead others to sin.  For instance, do we fail to dress modestly, instead dressing in ways that leads others to sin?

We start Lent in ten days.  We are called to do something for Lent that is a sacrifice.  Between now and then, think about the sins you struggle with.  Is there something you could do for Lent to help change the sin?  Ask and Jesus will help you through the Holy Spirit.

2 Comments

  1. Fran Koch says:

    Both of our priests deliver good sermons!
    Fr Jeff’s sermons really speak to me personally. With his sermons: I am enlightened, educated, informed and spoken to in a holy & faithful manner. I am so happy we have been blessed to have him as one of our priests! Thank you Fr.

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