Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time. We will begin the season of Lent in about ten days. Is there something you want to take from this gospel as you begin to think about Lent?
The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection February 12 2023 . Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Photos: We share two more photos from St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Community, Waupaca, Wisconsin. Find Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David, Ruth, Isaiah and John the Baptist encouraging us to follow the Lord and to seek strength in doing His will. Saints Peter and Paul, St. Isadore the Farmer, St. Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, St. John XXIII and St. Teresa of Calcutta are also rooted in the Lord Jesus and we look to them for intercession as we strive to be saints in our day.
Matthew 5:17-37 [The short form of this gospel is indicated within the brackets.]
[Jesus said to his disciples:] “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. [I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to Judgment;] and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave you gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
[You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.] If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife—unless the marriage is unlawful—causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
[Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all;] not by heaven, for it is God throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. [Let your ‘Yes’ mean Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.]
Two weeks ago, in the gospel, Jesus began to instruct his disciples. While the instructing is said to be to his disciples, there is a sense that others are also hearing Jesus’ instruction–but it is addressed to his disciples. The instruction began with Matthew’s beatitudes, Matt 5:1-12a. The teaching continued last Sunday with Jesus using very common elements of salt and light to tell the disciples that they are the salt of the earth and light of the world. Today’s gospel continues his instruction by focusing on important values of the day, and how they are stated in the law. Jesus desires that his disciples live their lives in a way that goes beyond the standards set by the scribes and Pharisees, who relay their understanding of the law.
Jesus comments on three experiences from daily life: hostility or anger toward another, respecting one another, and maintaining an honest and authentic relationship with God. In a culture where anger can easily escalate to the shedding of blood, Jesus urges his disciples to confront hostility within themselves as soon as it begins to manifest itself.
Jesus’ teaching about divorce is difficult because it comes out of a culture very different than what most of us live in. In Jesus’ day, wives were the property of their husbands. In this culture, the concern with adultery was more about the shame and embarrassing the husband of the woman, than the harm brought to the woman herself. We certainly live by a much greater awareness and sense of disgust at such attitudes now, but that was not the awareness of the day. Jesus’ comments about divorce represent the culture of the day, and again they focus on extinguishing the desire to embarrass another from the very beginning.
Lastly, Jesus turns to how one lives one’s relationship with God. He asks his disciples to be forthright. When they make a promise to God, they need to live up to that promise, to be faithful. You may recall the questions Jesus addressed to the Pharisees concerning the two sons who the father asked to go work in the field. The one said he would not go, and later regretted it and went, and the other said he would go, but did not. Jesus asked not who honored their father, but who did what the father asked.
Jesus has raised the bar on what is expected of the disciples. They are not like the scribes or the Pharisees, they are being called to a higher standard.
- Who are your heroes?
- When have you been really proud of an accomplishment?
- Has there been a time when you did just enough to get by? How did you feel about your accomplishment at that point?
- Have you ever had a teacher, boss, or mentor who really challenged you to be the best you could be? What do you think of that person now?
- How are you hearing Jesus’ challenges in today’s gospel?
- We will begin the season of Lent in about ten days. Is there something you want to take from this gospel as you begin to think about Lent?
- Can you take some time now to talk with Jesus about how you are hearing this gospel today? Is it coming at a good time for you?