February 12, 2017 – 6th Sunday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Apollonia (died: c.249)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Sirach 15:15-20    –     Psalm 1191   –    Corinthians 2:6-10   –    Matthew 5:17-37

“Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.” (Sirach 15:18)

In these “numbered weeks” (‘Ordinary time’) the Church is focusing on Matthew’s Holy Gospel. We’re pretty much going through it sequentially. It’s the Gospel that the Church wants us to focus on at this time. Once the Gospel is chosen, a first reading (usually from the Old Testament) is found that can support the theme of the Gospel along with a Psalm that – hopefully – compliments the Gospel message. The middle reading – usually from the New Testament – is on its own schedule and may, or may not, seem to fit in. Today, though, it does seem to fit in well.

With the above as a given, I hope we can put together some helpful thoughts that will enhance our following of Jesus. So, we look at this fairly long Gospel which, at first glance, appears to cover almost everything that we might encounter in our day-to-day life. Perhaps the “key” to understanding today’s Holy Gospel comes right at the beginning: “Therefore whoever breaks these commandments … will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever obeys … will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

 Then Matthew puts in a “corker:” “if your righteousness doesn’t surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

 Many Churches will take advantage of opting for the shorter version of this Gospel in order to not be overwhelmed by a whole string of negative statements. That’s why I chose the following verse from the Book of Sirach as our “lead-in” to today’s Reflection:

“Immense is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.” (Sirach 15:18)

Rules, laws and regulations are important for any organization but they must be seen as a means to an end and not an end in themselves. I read the following wise saying from another Dominican who said, “A shallow religion has to compensate for lack of depth by excessive strictness; and it tries in advance to make rules for every possible situation.” (Donagh O’Shea, OP)

 We don’t have to look very far to see what overly-strict religious rules can do to a society that chops off hands that have broken some law. When today’s Gospel says, “… not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law (and here’s the qualifier)until all things have taken place!”   And they have! Jesus was crucified, died, was buried and rose from the dead in order to send the Holy Spirit to re-create the world that was stained and trapped by sin. For all intents and purposes we are living in the end times – one way or another! We don’t go back. And we can’t jump ahead. So there’s only one choice left: today is the only day we really know or have. Go back and find that “Morning Offering” prayer and begin each day as if it were going to be your last. It’s really the only moment that we have. Amen!

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