Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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OPENING PRAYER

Catechism 226

My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.

My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.

My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.

COLLECT

O God, who teaches us that you abide

in hearts that are just and true,

grant that we may be so fashioned by your grace

as to become a dwelling pleasing to you.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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SIR 15:15-20

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.

Before man are life and death, good and evil,

whichever he chooses shall be given him.

Immense is the wisdom of the Lord;

he is mighty in power, and all-seeing.

The eyes of God are on those who fear him;

he understands man’s every deed.

No one does he command to act unjustly,

to none does he give license to sin.

APPLICATION

Any Christian parent or teacher could give us these words of truth and wisdom, and they would be of great value if we heeded them. But this same advice comes to us today not from any human authority but from God himself, who inspired and moved the man called Sirach to write these words of wisdom, which were to last and have value, for all ages and generations of men. We might question a parent’s or a teacher’s wisdom, or their right, to tell us of our personal responsibility for our actions, but who can question or challenge God’s wisdom, or God’s right, to teach us the truth concerning ourselves?

We have received the gift of free-will from God. We know that we can serve God by keeping his commandments, or that we can disrespect his authority and refuse to keep his law. Having given us free-will, he cannot force us to be loyal or grateful to him. But if we had not free-will, we should be like the beast of the field who can neither honor nor dishonor God. From the dumb beast God does not expect, nor much less demand, obedience. But from us men, to whom he gave the gifts which put us above all earthly creatures, intelligence and free-will, he does expect and demand obedience and loyal service.

Let us listen to this man Sirach today who speaks to us in God’s name. We can keep God’s commandments, and we know we can. We can choose to do good or to do evil, but if we choose evil we cannot say we could not help doing so. We might fool a fellowman by this false line of defense, but the all-wise God who “sees everything” and “knows every deed of man” cannot be deceived. But what decent man and especially what decent Christian, who knows the lengths the good God has gone to in order to give us eternal life, would want to deceive him or be disloyal to him?

Ours is a religion of love, we do not and ought not, avoid sin because we should thereby bring sufferings, and perhaps eternal death, upon ourselves. We avoid sin because it is an insult to our loving Father in heaven, who sent his divine Son on earth to live, suffer and die for us, in order to give us eternal life with the Blessed Trinity in heaven. It should be hard for any true Christian deliberately to offend such a kind, loving Father.

For those among us, who may have forgotten God’s love for them, and may have broken his commandments, let them thank God that their hour of reckoning is not already upon them. They may have written many shameful pages in their life’s story, but they have not yet finished writing it. There is still time to tear out, or erase from their biography, those pages they should not have written. The loving Father is also the all-merciful, all-forgiving Father. No sinner, no matter how sordid and shameful his actions and his disrespect for God may have been, will turn to him asking for pardon and find his request was in vain. But the sinner who keeps on postponing this return to God and continues to offend him, may find himself in the presence of the just judge when he least expects it.

God’s mercy is infinite, but he cannot pardon the free agent who does not want pardon. Notwithstanding his infinite love for all men, he cannot welcome home the prodigals who will not return home.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Psalm ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Blessed are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD.

Blessed are they who observe his decrees,

who seek him with all their heart.

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

You have commanded that your precepts

be diligently kept.

Oh, that I might be firm in the ways

of keeping your statutes!

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Be good to your servant, that I may live

and keep your words.

Open my eyes, that I may consider

the wonders of your law.

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes,

that I may exactly observe them.

Give me discernment, that I may observe your law

and keep it with all my heart.

Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

READING II

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1 COR 2:6-10

Brothers and sisters:

We speak a wisdom to those who are mature,

not a wisdom of this age,

nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.

Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden,

which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,

and which none of the rulers of this age knew;

for, if they had known it,

they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written:

What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,

and what has not entered the human heart,

what God has prepared for those who love him,

this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 152 One cannot believe in Jesus Christ without sharing in his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to men who Jesus is. For “no one can say ”Jesus is Lord“, except by the Holy Spirit”,1 who “searches everything, even the depths of God. .. No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God.”2 Only God knows God completely: we believe in the Holy Spirit because he is God.

The Church never ceases to proclaim her faith in one only God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

CCC 221 But St. John goes even further when he affirms that “God is love”:3 God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret:4 God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.

CCC 446 In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God revealed himself to Moses,5 is rendered as Kyrios, “Lord”. From then on, “Lord” becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel’s God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the title “Lord” both for the Father and – what is new – for Jesus, who is thereby recognized as God Himself.6

CCC 498 People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark’s Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus’ virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike;7 so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the “connection of these mysteries with one another”8 in the totality of Christ’s mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: “Mary’s virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord’s death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God’s silence.”9

CCC 598 In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.”10 Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself,11 the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.12

Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.13

CCC 1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”14

CCC 1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.15

CCC 2038 In the work of teaching and applying Christian morality, the Church needs the dedication of pastors, the knowledge of theologians, and the contribution of all Christians and men of good will. Faith and the practice of the Gospel provide each person with an experience of life “in Christ,” who enlightens him and makes him able to evaluate the divine and human realities according to the Spirit of God.16 Thus the Holy Spirit can use the humblest to enlighten the learned and those in the highest positions.

1 I Cor 12:3.

2 I Cor 2:10-11.

3 l Jn 4:8, 16.

4 Cf. I Cor 2:7-16; Eph 3:9-12.

5 Cf. Ex 3:14.

6 Cf. I Cor 2:8.

7 Cf. St. Justin, Dial. 99, 7: PG 6, 708-709; Origen, Contra Celsum 1, 32, 69: PG 11, 720-721; et al.

8 Dei Filius 4: DS 3016.

9 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 19, 1: AF 11/2 76-80: cf. I Cor 2:8.

10 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 12:3.

11 Cf. Mt 25:45; Acts 9:4-5.

12 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 6:6; 1 Cor 2:8.

13 St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitio 5, 3.

14 1 Cor 2:9.

15 Cf. 1 Cor 2:7-9.

16 Cf. 1 Cor 2:10-15.

APPLICATION

The mental outlook of the world of today is little changed from that of St. Paul’s day. The philosophy and the wisdom of the rulers of this age, and unfortunately not only of those rulers, is still earth-bound and worldly. The things of God are openly denied in a large section of our world, while he is shamefully ignored and neglected in the remaining sections which nominally believe in him. Nations, and most of their citizens, are bending all their energies to obtain more and more of the passing, perishable wealth and power of this miserable planet. We are living in a welter of international, limited wars, while all the time the threat of global war, and universal destruction, is hanging like a dark thunder cloud on our horizon.

We have advanced technically beyond the wildest dreams of our forebears, but every technical advance which could and should be a boon for humanity, is turned instead into a possible instrument of human extermination. The brotherhood of man is no longer accepted as a basic human tenet, and it is little wonder, since the fatherhood of God is denied in practice as well as in theory. And it is not only in apartheid and color-prejudiced countries that segregation and suppression of the weaker brethren is practiced, but also, and maybe more so, in the so-called free democracies.

The big business tycoons of today are the counterparts of the Roman slave-drivers. Their shares and their bank accounts are their household gods. Their workers and their poorer neighbors are far less concern to them than their Cadillac’s, their yachts and their racehorses. They hold solemn funeral rites for their pet dogs, and erect tombstones over their graves, but their charwomen, living in squalor, are not given a spare thought nor a spare dime. But what is worse, this pagan and inhuman worldly philosophy spreads down like a poison gas through the ranks of the less successful middle and lower-middle classes.

This is the direct result of our forgetfulness of, or rather our ignoring, the only true wisdom of life. The eternal happiness of man, planned by God’s wisdom and love from all eternity, and effected and revealed in the Incarnation, has been forgotten. Modem man, like the pagans of old, thinks his home and his true happiness are on this earth, hence he rides roughshod over his weaker neighbor, to get all he can out of the few years he realizes he has to enjoy himself.

A return to sanity in our world can be brought about only by a return to a recognition of God’s plan for us. Our time on earth is a journey to heaven. The less we load ourselves with this world’s goods or interests, the easier our journey will be. The more we help out fellow-travelers on this journey (and this includes all men), the safer and the smoother will be our own travel. Our true happiness, our everlasting happiness, will begin only when we arrive at our earthly journey’s end. If we keep on the path marked out for us by our loving heavenly Father, and if we practice true brotherly love on the way, we can rest assured that our journey will not have been in vain.

GOSPEL

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MT 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37

Jesus said to his disciples:

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 brother

will be liable to judgment.

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.

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.

Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’

Anything more is from the evil one.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021217.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 226 It means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from him:

My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.

My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.

My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.1

CCC 577 At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus issued a solemn warning in which he presented God’s law, given on Sinai during the first covenant, in light of the grace of the New Covenant:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law, until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.2

CCC 581 The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi.3 He often argued within the framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.4 Yet Jesus could not help but offend the teachers of the Law, for he was not content to propose his interpretation alongside theirs but taught the people “as one who had authority, and not as their scribes”.5 In Jesus, the same Word of God that had resounded on Mount Sinai to give the written Law to Moses, made itself heard anew on the Mount of the Beatitudes.6 Jesus did not abolish the Law but fulfilled it by giving its ultimate interpretation in a divine way: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old. .. But I say to you. ..”7 With this same divine authority, he disavowed certain human traditions of the Pharisees that were “making void the word of God”.8

CCC 678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.9 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.10 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned.11 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.12 On the Last Day Jesus will say: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”13

CCC 1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.14 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather. .. all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,”15 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”16

CCC 1424 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”17

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the live of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.”18 He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”19

CCC 1456 Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.”20

When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”21

CCC 1967 The Law of the Gospel “fulfills,” refines, surpasses, and leads the Old Law to its perfection.22 In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the “kingdom of heaven.” It is addressed to those open to accepting this new hope with faith – the poor, the humble, the afflicted, the pure of heart, those persecuted on account of Christ and so marks out the surprising ways of the Kingdom.

CCC 2053 To this first reply Jesus adds a second: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”23 This reply does not do away with the first: following Jesus Christ involves keeping the Commandments. The Law has not been abolished,24 but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment. In the three synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ call to the rich young man to follow him, in the obedience of a disciple and in the observance of the Commandments, is joined to the call to poverty and chastity.25 The evangelical counsels are inseparable from the Commandments.

CCC 2142 The second commandment prescribes respect for the Lord’s name. Like the first commandment, it belongs to the virtue of religion and more particularly it governs our use of speech in sacred matters.

CCC 2153 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained the second commandment: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all. .. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”26 Jesus teaches that every oath involves a reference to God and that God’s presence and his truth must be honored in all speech. Discretion in calling upon God is allied with a respectful awareness of his presence, which all our assertions either witness to or mock.

CCC 2258 “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”27

CCC 2262 In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, “You shall not kill,”28 and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies.29 He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.30

CCC 2302 By recalling the commandment, “You shall not kill,”31 our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.

Anger is a desire for revenge. “To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,” but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution “to correct vices and maintain justice.”32 If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.”33

CCC 2331 “God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image. .. God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion.”34

God created man in his own image. .. male and female he created them”;35 He blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply”;36 “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.”37

CCC 2336 Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins. In the Sermon on the Mount, he interprets God’s plan strictly: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”38 What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.39

The tradition of the Church has understood the sixth commandment as encompassing the whole of human sexuality.

CCC 2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.40

CCC 2380 Adultery refers to marital infidelity. When two partners, of whom at least one is married to another party, have sexual relations – even transient ones – they commit adultery. Christ condemns even adultery of mere desire.41 The sixth commandment and the New Testament forbid adultery absolutely.42 The prophets denounce the gravity of adultery; they see it as an image of the sin of idolatry.43

CCC 2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.44 He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.45

Between the baptized, “a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”46

CCC 2464 The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. This moral prescription flows from the vocation of the holy people to bear witness to their God who is the truth and wills the truth. Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant.

CCC 2466 In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth.47 “Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”48 The disciple of Jesus continues in his word so as to know “the truth [that] will make you free” and that sanctifies.49 To follow Jesus is to live in “the Spirit of truth,” whom the Father sends in his name and who leads “into all the truth.”50 To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes or No.’”51

CCC 2514 St. John distinguishes three kinds of covetousness or concupiscence: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life.52 In the Catholic catechetical tradition, the ninth commandment forbids carnal concupiscence; the tenth forbids coveting another’s goods.

CCC 2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.53 This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.

CCC 2792 Finally, if we pray the Our Father sincerely, we leave individualism behind, because the love that we receive frees us from it. The “our” at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, like the “us” of the last four petitions, excludes no one. If we are to say it truthfully, our divisions and oppositions have to be overcome.54

CCC 2841 This petition is so important that it is the only one to which the Lord returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount.55 This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for man. But “with God all things are possible.”56

CCC 2845 There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness,57 whether one speaks of “sins” as in Luke (11:4), “debts” as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”58 The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relation ship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.59

God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.60

1 St. Nicholas of Flue; cf. Mt 5:29-30; 16:24-26.

2 Mt 5:17-19.

3 Cf Jn 11:28; 3:2; Mt 22:23-24, 34-36.

4 Cf. Mt 12:5; 9:12; Mk 2:23-27; Lk 6:6-g; Jn 7:22-23.

5 Mt 7:28-29.

6 Cf. Mt 5:1.

7 Mt 5:33-34.

8 Mk 7:13; cf. 3:8.

9 Cf. Dan 7:10; Joel 3-4; Mal 3: 19; Mt 3:7-12.

10 Cf Mk 12:38-40; Lk 12:1-3; Jn 3:20-21; Rom 2:16; I Cor 4:5.

11 Cf. Mt 11:20-24; 12:41-42.

12 Cf. Mt 5:22; 7:1-5.

13 Mt 25:40.

14 Cf. Mt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 13:42, 50; Mk 9:43-48.

15 Mt 13:41-42.

16 Mt 25:41.

17 OP 46 formula of absolution.

18 2 Cor 5:20.

19 MT 5:24.

20 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. Ex 20:17; Mt 5:28.

21 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. St. Jerome, In Eccl. 10, 11: PL 23:1096.

22 Cf. Mt 5:17-19.

23 Mt 19:21.

24 Cf. Mt 5:17.

25 Cf. Mt 19:6-12, 21, 23-29.

26 Mt 5:33-34,37; Cf. Jas 5:12.

27 CDF, instruction, Donum vitae, intro. 5.

28 Mt 5:21.

29 Cf. Mt 5:22-39; 5:44.

30 Cf. Mt 26:52.

31 Mt 5:21.

32 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 158, 1 ad 3.

33 Mt 5:22.

34 FC 11.

35 Gen 1:27.

36 Gen 1:28.

37 Gen 5:1-2.

38 Mt 5:27-28.

39 Cf. Mt 19:6.

40 Cf. Mt 5:37.

41 Cf. Mt 5:27-28.

42 Cf. Mt 5:32; 19:6; Mk 10:11; 1 Cor 6:9-10.

43 Cf. Hos 2:7; Jer 5:7; 13:27.

44 Cf. Mt 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mk 10 9; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor 7:10-ll.

45 Cf. Mt 19:7-9.

46 CIC, can. 1141.

47 Jn 1:14; 8:12; Cf. 14:6.

48 Jn 12:46.

49 Jn 8:32; Cf. 17:17.

50 Jn 16:13.

51 Mt 5:37.

52 Cf. 1 Jn 2:16.

53 Cf. Mt 5:23-24, 44-45; 6:7,14-15, 21, 25, 33.

54 Cf. Mt 5:23-24; 6:14-15.

55 Cf. Mt 6:14-15; 5:23-24; Mk 11:25.

56 Mt 19:26.

57 Cf. Mt 18:21-22; Lk 17:3-4.

58 Rom 13:8.

59 Cf. Mt 5:23-24; 1 Jn 3:19-24.

60 St. Cyprian, De Dom. orat. 23: PL 4, 535-536; cf. Mt 5:24.

APPLICATION

In this Sermon on the Mount, we have various sayings of Christ, actually spoken on different occasions. Matthew, in his systematic manner, has gathered these sayings into one continuous discourse here. This makes it easier for his readers, who were Jewish converts, to grasp the new order of salvation as inaugurated by Christ. They knew the ten commandments, but they knew them as their rabbis had taught them. These rabbis, for the most part Pharisees, put all the stress on the letter of the law and on its external observance. Christ’s opening statement, that the attitude of his followers towards the commandments (and other precepts of the law) must be different, and superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, clearly indicates how Christianity must differ from, and supersede, Judaism.

Christ is not abolishing the ten commandments, but he is demanding of his followers a more perfect, a more sincere, fulfillment of them. The whole moral value of any legal observance (the Mosaic law included), comes from the interior disposition of him who observes or keeps the law. No man serves or honors God by any exterior acts, be they ever so arduous or continuous, unless these acts proceed from an intention and a will to honor and please God. This is the charter, the constitution, of the new law, Christianity. The old law is not abolished, but deepened and given a new life.

Avoiding murder therefore is not enough; the true Christian must remove any inclination to murder by building up true, brotherly love for all men in his heart.

We must not only not injure our neighbor or fellowman in his person, or in his character, but we must be ever ready to help him and prevent injury to him, whenever and wherever we can. We must not only not commit adultery, but must also develop a Christian respect and esteem for purity, the virtue which will preserve us not only from adultery but even from thoughts of adultery, or any other abuse of our sexual gifts given us by God for his sublime purpose.

We must be truthful always, and men of our word. This virtue is not only necessary for man’s salvation, but is the basis of rational intercourse between men in civilized society. While our civil courts still deem it necessary to impose oaths on contestants and witnesses (since they have, unfortunately, to take account of the liars and deceivers who still are a menace to society), the truthful man need not be afraid of insulting or dishonoring God by calling him as his guarantor, if asked to do so.

True and loyal service of God therefore begins in the heart and has its value from this interior disposition. Keeping the ten commandments is our way of proving to God that we are grateful, obedient and loyal to him who gave us all we have and who has promised us future gifts infinitely greater still. And just as our love for God is proved by our true love for our neighbor, so the last seven of the commandments impose on us obligations regarding our neighbor. It is only by fulfilling these seven that we can fulfill the first three which govern our relations with God.

This truth is expressed by our Lord in the words: It you are offering your gift at the altar, and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there… first be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Denial of Sin

It is precisely the existence of sin that modern man is unable to take seriously. Because of this rejection of the concept of sin, no one is directly touched today by the Gospel claim that the evidence of Jesus’ divine nature is based on his power to forgive sin. Most people do not explicitly deny the existence of God, but they do not believe that he is of any importance in the realm of human life. Hardly anyone seriously thinks nowadays that men’s wrong actions may concern God so much that he regards them as sinful and offensive to humself, with the result that such sin must be forgiven by him alone. Even theologians have discussed the possibility of replacing the practice of confessing sin by conversations with psychologists, sociologists, and lawyers. Sin does not really exist. There are only problems, and these can be settled with the help of experts. Sin has disappeared and with it forgiveness, and behind that disappearance there is also the disappearance of a God who is turned thward man. In this situation, Christians can only turn to the Gospel, which can give us courage to grasp the truth. Only the truth can make us free. But the truth is that there is guilt and that we ourselves are guilty. It is Christ’s new truth that there is also forgiveness by the one who has the power to forgive. The Gospel calls on us to accept this truth. There is a God. Sin exists and there is also forgiveness. We need that forgiveness if we are not to seek refuge in the lie of excuses and thus destroy ourselves… Where there is forgiveness, there is also healing.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 51: 1-12

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;

According to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight,

So that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgement.

Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing heart.

Amen

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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