February 12,2023 Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Paul T. Keil, February 12, 2023

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

          Peace be with you on this, our celebration of the Mass for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  You know, when Father Tim and I agreed a while back that I would have the privilege to give the homily this weekend I said, “great, that’s just a couple of days before Valentine’s Day!”  I was excited thinking it would be just wonderful to pull words of love out of the readings and wrap them into a beautiful tender, maybe even romantic, homily.  Well – that was before I read this weekend’s Gospel, however.  So, I opened the Lectionary and read, “Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement,” or “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” or here’s a real romantic verse, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.”  For today of all days, really Lord?  Now a quick lesson here ladies.  Before you poke your guy in the ribs when he shows too much interest in that Victoria’s Secret ad.  I would remind everyone how to read the Bible in context of a 2000-year-old culture.  Words like “brother” and “woman”, in the context we just heard today, should be read as gender neutral.  Consequently, Jesus’ prohibitions against anger, judgementalism, and lust apply to everyone.

Regardless, when I read this Gospel for today, thinking about pink hearts, red roses, chocolates, and flowers, I sat down quietly and said to myself, “Really Lord, for Valentine’s Day weekend, we’ve got this particular reading from Matthew.  Where’s the message of love?”  The good news is, whenever I read really difficult or even kind-a scary scripture passages like these, I can find comfort with a simple phrase I like to use; “It’s good to be Catholic.”  I don’t often quote the Catechism during homilies but today is very appropriate, especially when we have trouble finding God’s love in a passage.  Paragraph 112 in the Catechism is the first of three criteria Vatican II gave us for “interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it.”  It says this; “Be especially attentive to the content and unity of the whole Scripture.” 

The content and unity of the whole of Scripture.  What exactly does that mean anyway?  One of my favorite Scripture Scholars, Margaret Nutting-Ralph, went so far as to say this in one of her books; “If you are interpreting anything in the Bible to say God does not love you, you are misinterpreting the Bible.”  Wow!  Now that’s a pretty broad statement Margaret.  I mean after all, I’ve read some pretty ugly stuff in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, that really doesn’t sound at all loving.  In her book however, she goes to great lengths to show how some of the most negative sounding scripture passages are generally misinterpreted by many modern readers, primarily because of cultural and contextual issues encountered when trying to read ancient Hebrew or Greek texts translated into English.

Ultimately however, all of us can lean on paragraph 112 in the Catechism when we become frustrated by Scripture even if we’re not scholars.  Always remember what I’ve said over and over, the Bible is not modern schoolbook type history, although some Christians try to use it that way.  It is a book of faith given to us for our salvation.  It is a journey of God’s unlimited love in an intimate and maturing relationship with humanity and it spans over 2000 years of written revelation contained in 73 separate books.  And this Revelation was not fully revealed until the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  So, when we look for this unity of the whole of Scripture where does it finally take us?  My friends, it always leads to love.  Another Scripture Scholar, Steven Ray, describes it this way; “Do you ever feel lonely, unloved, unforgiven, or unworthy?  Take a look at the crucifix.  You are loved.  Jesus would have done that if you were the only person on earth, because he loves YOU enough to make the supreme sacrifice.”

Today we heard part of Matthew 5.  Chapters 5, 6, and 7 in Matthew’s Gospel all comprise Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the ideals laid down in his discourse on the mountain have been a constant point of discussion within the Church.  Is Jesus demanding that we all meet these ideals without compromise – or we’ll be liable to fiery Gehenna?  I mean, if you’re reading it literally, that’s what it says, right?  Gosh, I wonder, how many one-eyed Christians would be walking around?  Just listen to the very last verse of Chapter 5 if you really want to worry; “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Yikes Lord!  You want Godly perfection from me?  I’ll try Lord God, but you know I am weak, and I am a sinner.

Friends, you’ve heard me say this before and you may be tired of hearing it, but one of the reasons I love our Catholic Church is because here we openly display the image of the crucified Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, God incarnate.  And I firmly believe there is absolutely no physical image that can better define God’s eternal love for me and for you, than Jesus crucified.  The image of the crucified Jesus hangs in the vestibule before you enter the Church.  It is the image we process into Church with during Mass, it appears there, on the 12th Station of the Cross, and it hangs above our Altar. 

Now, like every good Christian, I enthusiastically rejoice in the Resurrected Jesus and the image above the main doors to our Parish Hall depicts Jesus risen.  The Resurrection defines Jesus’ Divinity.  And without the Resurrection the Crucifixion would have simply been another Roman execution in a backwater province of their empire, but – if the Resurrection defines Jesus’ divinity surely the Crucifixion defines Jesus’ love.  So, remember, if you’re ever tempted to say, “no one loves me.”  Simply look at the Crucifix.  For homework, go meditate on a crucifix for a bit and remember, God did that for you out of love.  And,,, simply stated my friends, that’s my message of love for this weekend before Valentine’s Day.


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