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Ordinary Time 6 (A)
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Readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

 1. Sirach 15, 15-20
  • If you choose  Three times Ben Sira mentions freedom of choice, even the freedom to reject life in favor of death.  The church has appropriated his sayings, and as it reads this passage it is learning how to reconcile a long-lived culture of moral absolutes with the demands of human dignity and freedom of conscience. 
  • It is – loyalty to do his will.  The reason for my pause lies in the motivation for living the covenant.  Are we coerced to do it?  Do we just go through the motions?  Or do we love God and follow the law out of conviction?  I want to allow the assembly to take it in and nod in agreement.
  • Whichever you choose  We not only make the choice but face the consequences of our choice.  It sounds much like the popular warning to be careful what we ask for.  It also reminds me of the parable of the two sons, in which the father gave the prodigal son exactly what he demanded.
  • Before man are life and death.  Science and technology have made this saying even more momentous in our day.  The life and death of humankind as a whole are now in play.  John Paul II gave this crisis constant attention during his papacy.
  • Each of the six verses can stand on its own, making its special contribution to the general theme.  I may pause briefly after each one.
  • These verses appear in a context of God’s wisdom.  The second half begins with praise of the immense wisdom of the Lord.     
  • The eyes of God see all he has made.  In the Jewish tradition, God is present to all and knows all.  What is left unsaid is how God responds to all our choices of death, our ability to make an end of the human race and even to threaten it.  I would read the words not in final triumph but in ongoing tragedy.  Is the outcome in every instance “very good,” in the words of Genesis, or does God often weep?
  • Central point: God created us free, and we cannot blame God for our failure.
  • Message for our assembly: How wonderful that God has bestowed this freedom on us.  And how wonderful it is when we love one another freely in our own way.
  • I will challenge myself: To be outspoken in my praise of what God has done.

2. I Corinthians 2, 6-10

  • We do speak a wisdom to those who are mature.  Sound like Gnosticism?  Let me listen further.
  • The context is one in which the apostle wants to contrast his gospel message with that of the Greek philosophers of his day.  He is putting “wisdom” in quotes, as if to say: “If it’s wisdom you’re asking for, I can go with that.”
  • God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, predetermined before the ages.  Like the re-interpretation of scripture in the light of Christ, something we have not perceived has now come to consciousness.
  • None of the rulers of this age knew it.  The great ones overlooked it, pushing away into ignominy the Lord of glory. 
  • But the simple ones, the believers in the Good News, knew it.  This God has revealed to us through the Spirit.  I recall how the Spirit works in the church, in abundance of gifts and especially in quiet revolutions and the love of communion.  I will take care not to couple “this God” in a hasty reading, as if there were other gods.
  • I want to speak warmly the words of Isaiah, beginning with What eye has not seen  Just as a popular hymn has done, I will pay attention both to ourselves, overcome with exultation, and to the goodness of God as it is being gradually revealed to us.
  • Central point: The one God is wiser than all the other gods we may invent.
  • The message for our assembly: Are we ready to enter into the depths of God?
  • I will challenge myself: To speak with the same pride in my message as the apostle showed when he first uttered it.

Gospel. Matthew 5, 17-37

  • Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount properly speaking.  Here is the main theme: I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 
  • I hear the famous contrast four times.  You have heardbut I say to you.  I need to say the words quoted from Exodus in a solemn and subdued way, and then repeat Jesus’ raising of the bar in a revolutionary tone.  I did not say a forbidding tone, but one of invitation.  Each of these are necessary especially for those who live together as church in faithful witness to the Lord.
  • Whoever is angry with his brother  I wouldn’t stress the masculine words but rather the behaviors that can be exhibited by both sexes.
  • Everyone who looks at a woman with lust.  Once again, let me find a way to say it more inclusively, because it can also work the other way.
  • Whoever divorces his wife  I remember that women in Jesus’ time could not do this.  But we are living in a more egalitarian age, so again let me work on this.
  • Do not swear at all  Let your “Yes” mean ”Yes,” and your “No” mean “No.”  I want the assembly to hear this.  We are all used to embellishing our words with supporting phrases such as “Believe me” or “Trust me.”  If our reputation is one of straight talk, we would not need to buttress it.
  • And the harder sayings, the so-called Semitic exaggerations?  Leave your gift there at the altar.  Tear out your eye and throw it away.  Let me think of the Kingdom of God and how eagerly we should be preparing for it, and that will help me read these words with conviction.
  • Climax: Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter.  Christ ups the ante. 
  • Message for our assembly: We are not to ask about the minimum qualifications for heaven, but rather about the maximum possibilities.
  • I will challenge myself: To make the contrast between the basic dictates of the Law and the new situation revealed by Jesus.

From Word to Eucharist: Let us recover some of the wonder we felt when we began to realize all that God has prepared for us.  When we showed our love for one another, in imitation of the Christ we are receiving, we saw it take shape.  And when we show that love today, this glorious scenario is restored.

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