Readings & Homily, sixth Sunday in OT

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Sunday, 12 February 2023


Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Readings and Antiphons on p. 327 of the Sunday Missal and on p 821 of the Daily Missal.

Entrance Antiphon.

Be my protector, O God, a mighty stronghold to save me. For you are my rock, my stronghold! Lead me, guide me, for the sake of your name.

First Reading: Sirach 15:15-20

A reading from the Book of Sirach.

If you will, you can keep the commandments, they will save you;
if you trust in God, you too shall live.  
He has placed before you fire and water:
stretch out your hand for whichever you wish.
Before a person are life and death, good and evil,
and whichever they choose will be given to them.
For great is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power and sees everything.
The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
and he knows every deed of man.
He has not commanded anyone to be ungodly,
and he has not given anyone permission to sin.

The Word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 119:1-2.4-5.17-18.33-34 (R. 1b)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. Blessed are those who walk in the law of the Lord!

Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep his decrees!
With all their hearts they seek him.

You have laid down your precepts
to be carefully kept.
May my ways be firm
in keeping your statutes.

Deal bountifully with your servant,
that I may live and keep your word.
Open my eyes, that I may see
the wonders of your law.

Lord, teach me the way of your statutes,
and I will keep them to the end.
Grant me insight that I may keep your law,
and observe it wholeheartedly.

R/. Blessed are those who walk in the law of the Lord!

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-10

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters:

Among the mature, we do impart wisdom,
although it is not a wisdom of this age
or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God,
which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.
None of the rulers of this age understood this;
for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him,”

God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
For the Spirit searches everything,
even the depths of God.

The Word of the Lord.

Please stand for the Gospel.

Alleluia, Alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
Alleluia.

Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.

At that time:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish
the law and the prophets;
I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.
For truly, I say to you,
till heaven and earth pass away,
not an iota, not a dot,
will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments
and teaches people so,
shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;
but the one who does them and teaches them
shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For 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 the people of old,
‘You shall not kill,
and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’
But I say to you
that everyone who is angry with his brother
shall be liable to judgment;
whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council,
and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar,
and there remember
that your brother has something against you,
leave your gift there before the altar and go;
first be reconciled to your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Make friends quickly with your accuser,
while you are going with them to court,
lest your accuser hand you over to the judge,
and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison;
truly, I say to you,
you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said,
‘You shall not commit adultery.’
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
pluck it out and throw it away;
it is better that you lose one of your members
than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away;
it is better that you lose one of your members
than that your whole body go into hell.

“It was also said,
‘Whoever divorces his wife,
let him give her a certificate of divorce.’
But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife,
except on the ground of unchastity,
makes her an adulteress;
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old,
‘You shall not swear falsely,
but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’
But I say to you, Do not swear at all,
either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
or by the earth, for it is his footstool,
or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
And do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make one hair white or black.
Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’;
anything more than this comes from Evil One.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Communion Antiphon.

They ate and had their fill, and what they craved the Lord gave them; they were not disappointed in what they craved.

Homily

Little Johnny had a quarrel with his younger brother, Willy.

  • Before he said his night prayers, Johnny’s mother said to him, “Now I want you to forgive your brother.”
  • But Johnny was not in a forgiving mood.”
  • No, I won’t forgive him”, he said.
  • Mother tried persuasions of every motherly variety, but nothing worked.
  • Finally, she said, “What if your brother were to die tonight? How would you feel if you knew that you hadn’t forgiven him?”
  • Johnny gave in or so it seemed.
  • “All right, I forgive him,” he said, “but if he is alive in the morning, I’ll get even with him.” 😊
  • “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
  • What do you think:
    • How does little Johnny do according to this standard?

Have a look around at us gathered for Mass today.

  • We are very diverse people, from different cultural backgrounds, countries of origins, races, etc.
  • But what binds us together is our baptism in Jesus.
  • In our baptism, we become part of God’s community.
  • Whatever our differences and whatever language we speak, we all say together, “We believe in Jesus Christ and so his way is our way.”
  • Our basic identity is that we are a community of Jesus’ followers and we love him.
  • Therefore, our love for him urges us to live like him.
  • Jesus is giving us a way to live like him in the Sermon on the Mount these Sundays.
  • The standard Jesus sets for us is challenging.
  • How can we ever live these teachings?
  • How will we even know how to live them?

Because of his miracles and teachings Jesus had attracted great crowds.

  • In order to teach those closest to him, he took them up a mountain.
  • Two Sundays ago we heard the Beatitudes, the introduction to a collection of his teachings which we call the Sermon on the Mount.
  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
  • The Beatitudes called for the profound inner change necessary for anyone wanting to follow Jesus.
  • That kind of change is spelled out in his subsequent teachings.

In the second reading, we heard Paul say: “Among the mature, we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age.”

  • He explains it saying: “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God,”
  • We are called to live, not according to the wisdom of this age, but according to God’s wisdom.
  • What’s special about this is that, “what God has prepared for those who love him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”

Through the gift of the Spirit we have come to accept Jesus Christ as God’s full revelation in the flesh.

  • We need to remind ourselves today that the same Spirit makes it possible for us to live according to Jesus’ teaching.
  • Jesus isn’t just giving us a stricter, higher code of ethics.
  • That’s not what makes his teachings special.
  • Rather, through our baptism and the gift of his Spirit, we have the desire and divine power to live what we are being taught again today.
  • That new Spirit in us is what enables us to live, as Jesus tells us, with a “holiness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.

At the time of Jesus, there were 3 main religious groups. There were the Essenes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees.

  • The Pharisees were the largest of these groups.
  • The basis of their teaching was not only the written law (called Torah) and the prophets but also various oral traditions of detailed observances and practices concerning sabbath observance, religious cleanliness, diets, and the payment of taxes or tithes.
  • The Pharisees spent a lot of time and energy fulfilling the Law.
  • They were mostly middle class and had the education and leisure to pursue purity of observance.
  • They were unlike the desperately poor, who comprised most of Jesus’s followers.
  • The illiterate, overworked and over-burdened poor followers of Jesus would have struggled fulfilling all those laws.
  • For that matter, what chance do we have in fulfilling these teachings?
  • And yet, Jesus calls for a holiness that surpasses those scribes and Pharisees!

From today’s gospel, we hear Jesus say this: “You have heard that it was said to the people of old, ‘You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment;”

  • What does Jesus want us to understand with this?
  • Jesus wants to cut short, at its inception, a path that might lead to murder.
  • So, he says to his disciples, they are to control their anger.

Then we hear this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

  • In cases of adultery, families would seek retaliation on the couple because of the shame brought down on those families, especially on the husband.
  • To prevent adultery and the subsequent blood feud that would erupt,
    • Jesus tells his disciples not even to think such a thing – no lusting after another.

Jesus continues: “Again you have heard that it was said to our ancestors, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, “

  • Jesus wants us to understand that good community relations, especially among believers, would be possible if people behaved honestly with one another;
    • if they could trust each other’s words.
  • So, no lying.

Jesus called his disciples to the highest standard of behaviour.

  • Such ways of being with one another,
    • form caring and respectful relationships in the community.
    • This way of being with one another also would also draw attention to that community,
    • and to the teachings of the one they followed – Jesus.
  • Today Jesus is giving us concrete examples of what we heard him say to his disciples last week.
  • They are to be “salt of the earth,” and the “light of the world”.
  • And guess what – by our baptism, we too are called to be “salt of the earth,” and the “light of the world”.

We Christians are called to a different way of living, in our relations to each other and then to the world.

  • We seek reconciliation where there is anger and alienation.
  • We tame our desires despite the consumerism of the world around us.
  • We are faithful to one another and so, when we make promises, we keep them.
  • We fix our eyes on Jesus and we turn to each other in mutual care and respect.  
  • It does sound idealistic.  
  • Jesus is trying to teach the purest understanding of the Law,
    • so that his followers come into a fuller relationship with God.
    • These understandings point us to the ideal.
    • They are meant as goal to strive for.

Jesus’ life showed us what the Sermon on the Mount looks like when it is taken on fully into one’s life.

  • Jesus is our wise teacher who shows us the way to life and gives us his Spirit to help us to choose those life-giving ways.

From today’s Gospel reading (long form):

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Therefore, if you bring your gifts to the altar, and there
recall that your brother [sister] has anything against you,
leave your gift at the altar, go first
and be reconciled with [them]
and then come and offer your gift.”

Reflection:

We Christians are called to a different way of living, in our relations to each other and then to the world. We seek reconciliation where there is anger and alienation. We tame our desires despite the license of the world around us. We are faithful to one another and so, when we make promises, we keep them.

So we ask ourselves:

  • As I come to church today, do I bear any bitterness against someone?
  • What can I do to be reconciled with them?
 
Criterion of corruption: A cartoon in New Yorker magazine: Two clean-shaven middle-aged men are sitting together in a jail cell. One inmate turns to the other and says: “All along, I thought our level of corruption fell well within community standards.” — But in today’s Gospel, Jesus insists that our righteousness should exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.

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