Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (a)

Last week in a trip with some of our parishioners I was reading a commentary based on today’s first reading. The famous Jesuit priest, Walter Burghardt, focused in on the phrase, Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him. He goes on to state that to the ancient Hebrews life meant far more than the period between conception and death. Life was what proceeded from loving and obeying God. And death was not just that which followed the last breath on earth. To the ancient Hebrews, death was the rejection of the living God. Seek the Lord and you will live, the prophet Amos tells the people. For sure he was not just speaking of eternity; he was speaking of living life to its fullest right no[1].

The point is that you and I are not genuinely alive because we are not medically dead, I mean, we are genuinely alive when our actions are full of love and understanding and intelligence and heart. To be genuinely alive, we must experience God. As simple as that. It is not enough to know about God. We must know Him, experience Him, and we can only know Him and experience Him through love. The First Letter of John states, whoever does not love, does not know God. We shall only be admitted into the eternal presence of God if we love Him, if we love Christ, above all else and if we love the human images of God[2].

Perhaps all this helps us understand the Gospel for this Sunday. The words of Our Lord are is not about does and don’ts. Christian life is demanding. It is just not enough to avoid external sins of great magnitude. It is not enough to avoid murder. It is not enough to avoid adultery. It is not enough to avoid taking false oaths.

We have to fight against things that result in murder, namely our anger, our hatred, our grudges, our past hurts. Hatred, anger, and grudges destroy the life of Christ within us. We cannot be fully alive if we treasure our hatred more than we treasure the Love of God. We have to teach our children that there is never room for hatred in the world. And yes, they may be very upset with a pastor, a teacher, a playmate or a family member and this upset may be justified by someone hurting them, but if we allow upset to turn into hatred we destroy ourselves, we destroy our ability to live genuine lives, the life of Jesus within us. We cannot love God and hate another person at the same time.

We have to fight that within us that destroys the love relationships we have committed ourselves to in life, whether this be your marriages, my priesthood, the love of your families, your ability to love others.

St. Leo the Great used to challenge the Christians of the fifth century, “Remember your dignity.[3]” We also have to remember the dignity we have, the dignity of being fully alive with the life of Jesus Christ.

Before man are life and death, whichever he chooses shall be given him, the first reading states, to which Jesus adds, Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself[4].

Today, at the celebration of the Eucharist –our biggest treasure- we pray for the strength to be fully alive, and the grace to choose the Life of the grace, the life of Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Amen ■

[1] Sunday 13th February, 2011, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Ecclesiasticus 15:15-20. Happy are they who follow the law of the Lord! Ps 118(119):1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10. Matthew 5:17-37.
[2] When we consider all things through the Love of Christ, we are alive in Christ.  St. Paul puts it this way, “For me, living is Christ.” Then, as Paul says in Romans Eight, nothing in creation can separate us from the Love of Christ, not even physical death.  For, as we heard in today’s second reading, ‘The eye has not seen, the ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.’ Yet God has revealed this wisdom to us through the Spirit. The Spirit scrutinizes all matters, even the deep things of God.”
[3] Pope Leo I or Pope Saint Leo the Great (ca. 400 –461) was pope from September 29, 440 to his death. He was an Italian aristocrat, and is the first pope of the Catholic Church to have been called "the Great". He is perhaps best known for having met Attila the Hun in 452, persuading him to turn back from his invasion of Italy. He is also a doctor of the Church.
[4] Mark 12:30. 

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris