The scholar of the law knew the words of the law, but he didn’t want to live it. Instead, he wanted to justify himself and his half-hearted approach to following God.
Jesus’ Messianic message is that we are Temples of God, and as Temples of God we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A.
Christ wrote the Law on our hearts so that we can start living for Heaven now.
Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A.
Sixteen years ago, men flew planes into the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon. More men failed to reach their target when heroic men and women rebelled against their hijackers. What would bring people to commit such an evil action? How could anyone think that crashing planes full of people into buildings full of people was an OK thing to do? They, like the Pharisees, were following a law that they believed to be from God. They believed that because their imam declared a holy war, they could commit atrocities. The laws of Islam, as the terrorists understood it, permitted this.1
Today Jesus asks all of us, “is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”
A new person shows up at the parish. They aren’t dressed well, and are acting strangely, but seem to want to talk to someone. Mass starts in 2 minutes, and I don’t really have time to talk, so I find something to do so that I look busy.
Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil?
I meet some friends for lunch. After the usual pleasantries, we begin discussing what is happening in the neighborhood. It turns into gossip about all the people I don’t like.
How do my actions save life, rather than destroy it?
We do not know the day nor the hour that God will call us to himself. As we mourn the loss of life on and after September 11, let it be a reminder for us to remain ever vigilant about the state of our own souls.
Monday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Col 1:24–2:3; Ps 62:6-7, 9; Lk 6:6-11
“Glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion. For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; he has blessed your children within you.”
God has strengthened Jerusalem against attack and has blessed those who grow within her walls. What a wonderful image! It becomes even more wonderful when we recognize that we visit the Heavenly Jerusalem each time we participate in the Mass! By our participation in the Mass, we allow God to strengthen us and to help us grow closer to him.
One of the ways that God helps us to grow is through his law. The law given to the Israelite people in Deuteronomy was one of the wonders of the ancient world. The reading today tells us that nations marveled at the intelligence and wisdom of Israel. No other kingdom had a law so just. God had designed the law to help Israel flourish. Sadly, the Israelites could never fully keep the law; therefore, they only partially experienced its wonder.
The law and the prophets—an ancient saying referring to all the Old Testament—were not abolished by Jesus. Jesus even says that not one iota—basically the dot on an ‘i’—of the law would pass away. The sacrificial elements of the old law are fulfilled through Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross, so they no longer bind us. The moral elements of the law, however, were expanded and refined by Jesus in his ministry. Today’s Gospel, fittingly, comes from the Sermon on the Mount, where the moral code for all who are citizens of the Kingdom of God, that is, all the baptized, is given. This is the updated and refined law.
The antiphons we proclaim today are a perfect fit. At Communion, we said “You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, O Lord.” (cf. Ps 16:11) God has indeed shown us the path of life: the new law, which we find most plainly in the Gospels. This path, the law, will lead us to great joy if we follow it. Let us remember to pray often to God, asking him as we did at the beginning of Mass today, to “Let my steps be guided by your promise; may evil never rule me.”
Today’s Readings: Dt 4:1, 5-9; Ps 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20; Mt 5:17-19
In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable of a master who forgives a great debt. This servant, forgiven of his debt, then turns around and throws a fellow servant into prison for a much smaller debt. The master is displeased, and hands down a judgment in line with how the servant with great debt judged the servant with little debt.
We are the servants with a great debt. How we treat others, however, does not have to be as the servant with great treats others in the parable. Azariah recognizes this. He and two other Jewish men have been cast into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship and pay homage to false gods in Babylon. They pray a beautiful prayer amidst the flames, begging God to have mercy on them. They proclaim their trust and confidence in God, offering to Him everything that they have.
They end by asking God to bring glory to his name, which he does. The men are saved from the fire. The king of Babylon then proclaims that Israel’s God is not to be disrespected because of his great power. The three men, as well as the prophet Daniel, go on to be the most sought-after and intelligent men in the entire kingdom. By dedicating themselves to God, and acting in accord with his law, the men gave glory to God with their lives.
Let us be like Azariah, and offer ourselves to God, who has forgiven us a great debt—a debt we could never hope to repay on our own.
Today’s Readings: Dan 3:25, 34-43; Ps 25:4-5ab, 6 & 7bc, 8-9; Mt 18:21-35
In the reading from Deuteronomy, the Israelite people promise to follow God’s laws and walk in his ways. God, in turn, promises to bless the people of Israel. The psalm reinforces this, saying “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!” To follow God’s law is the easiest way to walk in his ways. But we cannot let the law become an end to itself—we must always remember that God is the measure, not mankind or a book of law.
Jesus reminds us of this in the Gospel today, where he tells us to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are called to go beyond the law, to be perfect. For example, Jesus tells us not simply to love God, but also to love our enemies. To be perfect is impossible for human beings, which is why we must constantly ask God for help. By submitting ourselves to the mercy of God, and praying for his assistance, we can be assured that he will eventually grant us the grace to be perfect if we do our best to follow in his ways.
Today’s Readings: Dt 26:16-19; Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8; Mt 5:43-48
In the first reading today, God’s law for dealing with other people is set forth for us. It ends with the statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” The psalm, referring to this law, calls it “perfect” and “refreshing” to the soul. So many of the problems we have today would be solved if we kept this commandment in mind. Sometimes we forget that every person has their own unique set of circumstances and struggles that they confront every day. Despite all that, we are called to see this person as a beloved child of God. If we truly are able to see others as beloved children of God, we will treat them as Jesus teaches us in the beatitudes, and as he reminds us in the Gospel today. We will give care and comfort to those who need it.
If we truly love someone, we care for them enough to care for the people in their lives. We get to know them, and often to develop our own relationships with these people in the lives of those we love. A similar dynamic must be present in our relationship with God. If we truly love God, then we must care about the physical and spiritual well-being of those who God loves. This, however, is the challenge, because God loves every person. If we hate another person, we are hating one of God’s beloved children. Even worse, we are in a way hating God, because he dwells within each and every human being.
The Gospel ends by reminding us that we will be judged at the end of all things. We will be judged on our ability to love. If we truly loved God and neighbor, we will enter into the kingdom. If not, we will suffer eternal punishment. Love can be challenging. It doesn’t mean that we always agree with the other or even necessarily like them very much. It might mean that we have to offer correction to those who have lost their way, or do other things that we don’t particularly enjoy doing. But we are called to love.
Today’s Readings: Lv 19:1-2, 11-18; Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15; Mt 25:31-46
Today’s Mass Readings: Sir 15:15-20; Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Cor 2:6-10; Mt 5:17-37
The readings today are all held together by God’s law. The first three readings keep talking about how God has given us his commandments. In Sirach, we learn that man is given the choice to follow this law, and God never commands us to do something unjustly. The psalm tells us that those who follow God’s law are blessed. St. Paul tells the Corinthians that we must speak Wisdom, and that the Holy Spirit will teach us this wisdom, which is the law and the Mysteries of the Kingdom. But what is the law? The first three readings, for me, never told me what the law is, just to get ready for it.
The Gospel reading, finally, answers this question. Jesus tells us all about the law. We must follow the commandments, but not only that—Jesus challenges us to go further! Not only are we not to kill, but we must not even be angry with each other! We must be reconciled to one another in order to enter the kingdom. Jesus gives adultery, divorce, and oaths the same treatment: adultery is possible even by looking at another with an impure mind, divorce is not permissible as it causes adultery, and we must let our “yes” mean “yes and our “no” mean “no.”
Jesus spends more time on the topics of purity than any individual topic in the Gospel. Purity is essential for any practice of virtue, yet it is attacked more than almost any other. Only those who are pure in body and mind are capable of focusing on the things that truly matter. They are capable of seeing what things are good and bad, because they can see the true nature of the thing more clearly than anyone else. The beatitudes tell us that the pure in heart shall see God, so we should all strive for this purity.
Modern culture makes this nearly impossible. With the prevalence of pornography, “hooking up” and casual sex, divorce and infidelity, so many negative and evil influences pull us away from purity. It is a huge challenge to remain pure in today’s society. But it is worth it. When we are pure, when we can see things as they truly are, and when we can truly see God, only then will we be truly happy. Even better: when we are pure in heart: all the other commandments become easy. Our yes will always mean yes, our no will always mean no, we will be able to love our neighbor and to forgive those who offend us, and we will be able to see others as children of God.
Not only does purity bring happiness, but it allows us to more easily practice other virtues which bring even more happiness.