February 12, 2023
Sir 15:15-20; Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Cor 2:6-10; Mt 5:17-37
The Gospel today is probably among the most unreasonable in the whole New Testament. OR at least seemingly unreasonable. It surely doesn’t seem like GOOD news. Anger at your brother. Mortal Sin. Lustful thoughts: Mortal Sin. Do not take a false oath. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,‘ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one? What?! It sounds so serious. What does that even mean?
Actually, when read with the proper attitude and intentions, this is very much Good News. God does not command us to do anything that we are incapable of doing. Recall in the first reading today from Sirach: It says right at the beginning, “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.”
This of course presumes that we know the Commandments. Also, it’s 3000 years since the 10 commandments were received by Moses and the bar has been raised quite a bit. The law has been fulfilled in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We now have more direct access to the Holy Spirit since Pentecost. It’s a whole new world.
So, the REALLY GOOD NEWS is that we can avoid anger and lust and even swearing. We don’t have to rely on our own willpower or good intentions. We have the grace of God! We have the wisdom and knowledge and understanding and strength OF GOD…whenever we want it. Again, if we CHOOSE to keep the commandments, we can be saved.
Of course, I suppose there’s not too many of us who are worrying about going to hell anyway, but we might be somewhat concerned about the world we are passing along to our grandchildren. How will they be saved?! … Or … spared from the moral chaos and confusion that is being professionally streamed into their little minds … constantly?
Who will save them? Jesus Christ of course. The Body of Christ of course. Those members of the Church who are committed to becoming one body, one spirit in Christ.
This past week I spent a few days in Salt Lake and spent part of the time meeting with a small group of about 6 families from a previous parish. They had children from ages 2 to 17 at the gathering. They were indeed concerned about the world they are passing along to their children and grandchildren. They are focusing on the type of learning and teaching and community building and nation teaching they need to be involved in to shape the world before someone else does. It was another reminder that the remnant is still alive in the Church. The mission continues!
We were discussing among other things what it means to be a genuinely Eucharistic people and what type of communities are implied by a group which gathers at Mass. How could real people develop real communities where there is a level of interdependence which is illustrated in the Old and New Testament? How do parents develop stronger marriages and demonstrate the Wisdom of the Church’s understanding of a sacramental marriage? Especially in our increasingly confused American culture? How do we live and teach the deeper implications of chastity? How do we avoid habitual anger and resentment? How do we learn and teach the true meaning of love and sexuality?
If the gospel says that anger and lust are both deadly sins and Jesus did not abandon us, then it must be possible to live at a higher level. We can rise above our usual cultural standards.
This past week I just completed the exam for an extended online course I took on the Theology of the Body. I have had quite a bit of exposure to these teachings already, but this class experience offered a deeper dive and a great review. The members of the family gathering also had additional interest in the deeper study and experience of the vocation God had called them to. It will be a great opportunity to rise above the mere avoidance of the sin, but to actually live more fully in the Spirit. To see each other with the eyes of our hearts; with the eyes of God.
I hope our family group will soon be reading together a primer book, Theology of the Body for Beginners. Even though we covered a lot of the basics in previous parish activities, we want to reset with another review of the fundamentals. The Good News is the recipe for the new world that the children and grandchildren deserve.
As disciples we need to up our game to true ‘Super Bowl’ status (if I may say so on this particular weekend. AND not including the half-time show). We need to recommit to the types of community relationships, prayer, study and teaching that the world needs.
See the reference for Theology of the Body in today’s bulletin and on our website. If at least 10 people buy the book and read the first chapter, then perhaps we could even have a book discussion in the parish.
For now, we will continue to move more deeply into this transcended experience of Communion that God is calling us to.