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Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sixth Sunday of Year (1)
(Sirach 15:15-20; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37)

We should be eternally grateful for the gift of faith which we have received because it is the very wisdom of God, a wisdom which can lead us to that heavenly glory for which the Father chose us in Jesus:
I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.  (John 17:6 NIV)
This God-given wisdom is not something which the worldly wise can appreciate, indeed, so little did they appreciate it in Jesus -- the Wisdom of God made flesh -- that they crucified Him.  Consequently, we are not surprised that our modern world laughs at us too.  We are not dismayed that worldly men and women think the Gospel message of salvation is rubbish, because Jesus told us that those who are of the world can only understand and accept a worldly message: the truth concerning heaven and our eternal destiny is a closed book to them:
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but you do not belong to the world, now that I have chosen you out of the world, and for that reason the world hates you.    (John 15:19 REB)
Remember what I said: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have followed my teaching, they will follow yours.  All this they will do on My account, because they do not know the One who sent me.  (John 15:20-21 REB)
Though we grieve, we are not dismayed, at the world’s refusal to accept the Good News of Salvation; indeed, we are thereby made all the more confident, because we know that Jesus foretold this, He forewarned us;  moreover, He also prayed for us that we might be sustained and protected by the Father in the face of such opposition:
Father, I have taught them what I learned from You and they have received it: they know with certainty that I came from You, and they have believed that You sent me.  I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to You … and through them is My glory revealed.  Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you have given Me, that they may be one as We are one. While I was with them, I protected them by the power of Your name which You gave me, and kept them safe.  Now, I am coming to you; I have delivered your word to them and the world hates them, because they are strangers in the world as I am.  (Jn. 17:8-14 REB)
So we have confidence in the face of mockery and opposition, confidence not in ourselves but in the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit; and more than confidence, we have the soul-satisfying joy of being close to Jesus, for which we give whole-hearted thanks to God.
In our confidence and joy we can never slide into complacency or pride because we are taught that the fear of the Lord is the only beginning of wisdom; no one can become wise without a reverential fear of the Lord:
The fear of the Lord is wisdom; and to turn from evil, that is understanding!  (Job 28:28 REB)
Fear of the Lord is the root of wisdom and the beginning of faith; and because the worldly man cannot appreciate the wisdom of God and, indeed, regards  it as folly, so, therefore, does he ridicule faith while denying the existence or the relevance of God.
Modern men and women practice abominations of all sorts without any apparent qualms of conscience: they are of the world and in their society there is no one to contradict them, no one who does not approve or practice the same or similar things.  And so they laugh, and to a certain extent we can understand their laughter if they think such practices are worthwhile and find  themselves surrounded by like-minded people.  Those we cannot understand, however, are those who come to Church, and, in the Church, secretly laugh at the Word and ignore the Wisdom of God.  They come to worship it would appear, and yet they spurn the authority of God.  Who could be so crass?  It takes a special sort of fool to insult another in their own home, which, even in today’s society is totally unacceptable; but, to insult God in His own House is beyond imagining.
For our part, we who come to worship with full intent and sincerity come to learn, to love, and to follow the way God’s word traces out for us; we know it is the way to blessings that:
God has prepared for those who love Him, (blessings) no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived (1 Cor 2:9 NIV).
We come, as the psalmist says, prepared to sow in tears if need be so that we might reap a share in the joy which is eternal; and Jesus shows us how to achieve our purpose, by learning from His example and that of Our Lady.
Jesus expressed His appreciation of God’s Law given to Israel through Moses, by expressly declaring:
Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to complete.  Truly I tell you: so long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter, not a dot, will disappear from the Law until all that must happen has happened.
So that when He went on to add, several times:
            You have heard that it was said to your ancestors …. But I say to you ..
He was in no way contradicting or abolishing the Law but teaching His disciples, His Church, you and me, how to fulfil, complete, the Law and the Prophets.   Jesus’ main grief against the Scribes and Pharisees was:
            These people pay me lip service, but their heart is far from me.
Hypocrites!  Your pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin; but you have overlooked the weightier demands of the Law – justice, mercy, and good faith.  It is these you should have practised, without neglecting the others!  (Mt. 23:23)
Jesus does not want cold, meticulous, literal observance of laws carved on stone, but an obedience that is sincere and attentive to both the letter and the spirit of His commands, for without the vivifying Spirit, observance of the letter only kills.
Mary our Mother is, of course, the very best example of this, for, we are told:
            Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
And she it is who assures us that the following words of her Son are absolutely true and fulfilling for all her Gospel children:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.   (Matt 11:28-30 NIV)
In this world you will have trouble, (but) have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  Take heart!  I have overcome the world, that in me you may have peace. (John 15:11; 16:33 NIV)