Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s Video: Sunday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time A & St. Apollonia, February 12,2017

Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s Video: Sunday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time A & St. Apollonia, February 12,2017

How God loves our freedom! As if singing a hymn, he says through Sirach: “If you choose you can keep the commandments. If you trust in God, you too shall live. To whichever you choose, fire or water, stretch forth your hand!” This is the righteousness that “surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.” “God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden” has revealed it to us. “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” We long to be counted among them, even to the point of tearing out our right eye, cutting off our right hand. For heaven must be rife with one-eye, one-armed saints who reconciled with offending brothers and sisters… who refused to let lust master them. We stretch forth our one remaining hand to the fire of the Holy Spirit, to the water of our baptism, letting our Yes mean Yes.

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, amidst the laws that You have set for us, You have been so gracious to give us our free will and have always respected our choice and the path that we wish to take. Lord, the beautiful consequence of your gift of free will is that we can literally choose to lead a life following our Lord and Savior, our Lord Jesus, or we can turn away from Him.  Lord, bless us always with your Wisdom so that we may always consider and follow the ways of Jesus.
Yes Lord, we need your grace so that we may see, recognize and accept our self centered ways which bring us away from Jesus. In His Mighty Name, we hope and pray to abide by what You have set for all of us. Amen.

Reading 1

Sir 15:15-20 – No one does he command to act unjustly.

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.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm

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

  1. (1b) 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.
    R. 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!
    R. 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.
    R. 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.
    R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!

Reading 2

1 Cor 2:6-10 – God predestined wisdom before the ages for our glory.

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.

The word of the Lord.

Gospel

Mt 5:17-37 or 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37 – So it was said to your ancestors; but I say this to you.

Bishop Robert Barron’s Homily: Choosing the way of love click below: 

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 brother
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to 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 your 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 your 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’s 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.”

or

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.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – Affairs of the heart

Dr. Scott Hahn’s reflection click below: 

Jesus tells us in the Gospel this week that he has come not to abolish but to “fulfill” the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets.

His Gospel reveals the deeper meaning and purpose of the Ten Commandments and the moral Law of the Old Testament. But his Gospel also transcends the Law. He demands a morality far greater than that accomplished by the most pious of Jews, the scribes and Pharisees.

Outward observance of the Law is not enough. It is not enough that we do not murder, commit adultery, divorce, or lie.

The law of the new covenant is a law that God writes on the heart (see Jer. 31:31–34). The heart is the seat of our motivations, the place from which our words and actions proceed (see Matt. 6:2115:18–20).

Jesus this week calls us to train our hearts, to master our passions and emotions. And Jesus demands the full obedience of our hearts (see Rom. 6:17). He calls us to love God with all our hearts, and to do his will from the heart (see Matt. 22:37Eph. 6:6)

God never asks more of us than we are capable. That is the message of this week’s First Reading. It is up to us to choose life over death, to choose the waters of eternal life over the fires of ungodliness and sin.

By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has shown us that it is possible to keep his commandments. In baptism, he has given us his Spirit that his Law might be fulfilled in us (Rom. 8:4).

The wisdom of the Gospel surpasses all the wisdom of this age that is passing away, St. Paul tells us in the Epistle. The revelation of this wisdom fulfills God’s plan from before all ages.

Let us trust in this wisdom, and live by his Kingdom law.

As we do in this week’s Psalm, let us pray that we grow in being better able to live his Gospel, and to seek the Father with all our heart. – Read the source: https://stpaulcenter.com/reflections/affair-of-the-heart-scott-hahn-reflects-on-the-sixth-sunday-in-ordinary-tim

Reflection 2 – The standards and norms

Today’s gospel is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. Here, we witness Jesus applying the proper spirit to the standards and norms set for all of us, which to a great extent have become too legalistic. They have become so rigid to the letter that those who have been given power and authority within any group have even determined when and how and on whom, the laws and or standards should apply. They have become so rigid that the true spirit by which they were set by God have all been lost. But today Jesus gives us the right perspective as the dictates of the “law” were only for the head to inform and guide the five senses. The spirit Jesus is trying to imbibe in us is to form both heart and mind.

Laws are meant for keeping order. Jesus invites us to let go of exactness and our extreme desire for conformity out of fear of punishment. Jesus wants us to interiorize His heart and mind. It is not about doing one thing and not doing another but it is more about the “why” of our doing anything.

When ‘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, His statement implied His full authority over God’s law thus leading us to the principle of adding and or subtracting our own on God’s laws. Such attitude or pre-disposition to amend God’s laws for our benefit or those close to our hearts, is one form of RIGIDITY that can be found in all of us. We can only vary in degree but man’s self righteousness can make one break “one of the least of these commandments and teach others to do so.”

Today, we ought to realize that just as in both word and deed, we can bring Jesus to others, in like manner, by the words that come out of our mouths and the actions that originate from us, we can also draw people away from Him. We therefore have to examine our hearts and try to see how we have lived out our lives. Did we “walk the talk” is the big question that should be in our hearts.

As we pursue our work for our Lord, let us sincerely bring others to His fold. Let our actions consider that there is always a Christ in each one of us and that all of us are our Father’s  children formed into His likeness and goodness. Let us relate with one another in love and never allow our negative spirit to stifle the Spirit within the hearts of our neighbors for our own selfish interests. Let us never cause our neighbors to sin by the way we related to them in the Name of our Lord.

Direction

God’s Wisdom will be upon us by listening and obeying… by living the “why” of Christ’s life.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, give me the grace to do your will and practice what I preach. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen

Reflection 3 – Vacuum Cleaner

An old lady heard a knock on her door, and when she opened, she saw a well-dressed young man carrying a vacuum cleaner. “Good morning,” said the young man. “If you can give me a couple of minutes, I would like to demonstrate how this latest high-powered vacuum cleaner works.” ”Go away!” said the old lady. ”I’m broke. I have no money!” She was about to close the door, but the young man quickly slipped inside the house and implored, ”Please allow me to do my demonstration.” And before she could say a word, he emptied a pail of horse manure onto the carpet in the living room. “Now,” he said, beaming with confidence, “if this vacuum cleaner does not take away all traces of this horse manure from your carpet, Madam, I will personally eat what is left behind.” The old lady was unimpressed. She went to the kitchen and came back with a spoon. She said to the young man, “Here, you may need to use this spoon,” she said. “I told you I have no money, and I could not pay my bills. This morning they just cut off my electricity.”

We like vacuum cleaners because they can clean so thoroughly and take all dirt and dust in the house. This is somehow similar to what Jesus came to do – to cleanse us thoroughly inside and out. He has come to take away all kinds of sin – in thought, in word, in deed and in our omissions. He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Nevertheless, that is only half of his mission. The other half is more important. After taking away all sins, he desires to establish God’s kingdom in the world, beginning in the hearts of each one of us. Now, this second part is what many people have not been able to fully comprehend.

There are many of us who think that following Jesus simply consists in avoiding sin and evil. This is quite easy. It is the way of minimalism. This is expressed in the legalistic mentality. Such a person believes that he can be saved by simply following the letter of the law. But God is not pleased with the minimum and the lukewarm.

Jesus made it clear to his listeners: “I did not come to abolish the law and the prophets.” He did not come to give a new law. The entire Old Testament writings are definitely true expressions of God’s will. However, the limitations of the human language and understanding gave rise to many mistaken ideas and beliefs. That is why Jesus said, “I came not to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” He came to correct those mistaken notions and improve their understanding of God’s true will. He came to show us the way of total and unconditional obedience to the will of God.

But most importantly, he has come, not only to give us essential teachings, but also to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. He has come to give us Himself. Hence, he taught with authority for he himself is the fulfillment of God’s law. He solemnly proclaimed: “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).

In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus taught that fulfilling God’s law is not only by obeying the letter of the law, but more importantly, by living the true spirit of the law, which is love. After all, God’s commands are given to us, not to burden us, but to help us learn the way of love, and become members of the family of God. Everything boils down to the heart, for God looks into the heart. Love, indeed, should be the sole motivation and driving force in our life.

The Sermon on the Mount of Jesus aims to deepen our faith by purifying the motivations of our hearts. For instance, worshipping God is not only a matter of bringing offerings to the altar. Rather, it is more of being totally pleasing in the eyes of God. So, “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24).He knows that anger leads to murder, and “whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:22). We come to Mass every Sunday, but it could be that some of us still hold grudges and vengeful feelings against somebody. Harboring ill feelings in our hearts is not only harmful to our spiritual and physical health, but it also renders our prayers and worship ineffective and useless. Tertullian, one of the Fathers of the Church, said, “But how foolish is it either to pass a day without prayer because you won’t make up with your brother or to lose your prayer because you’re still angry?”

Furthermore, following Jesus is not just a matter of avoiding sin, but also calls us to do something more radical, by uprooting sin from our hearts. This is the symbolic meaning of his shocking words about cutting one’s hand and taking out one’s eye. Just as love starts from the heart, so also sin. Jesus said, “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile” (Mk 7:21-23).

It is, therefore, very important that we always purify our hearts and minds, and give no chance for sin to come in and take root in our lives. In this regard, the practice of daily examination of conscience is very helpful. And, needless to say, a more frequent trip to sacramental confession is in order. Truly, we need the help of Jesus. He is our spiritual vacuum cleaner. He wants to cleanse us thoroughly, to purify the inside of our hearts and every bit of our being so that we will become worthy of our dignity as children of God, truly pleasing in the eyes of our heavenly Father. Jesus has come to take away all sins, and to establish God’s kingdom in the hearts of His people who have learned to love as he did (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).   

 

Reflection 4 – How can love be the fulfillment of the law?

Here’s the story of a veteran William Matheson who walked through the streets of his hometown with an empty sleeve. When a passerby commented on the loss of his arm, he replied, “I didn’t lose it. I gave it.” That describes what Jesus did for us. He didn’t lose His life on the cross. He “gave Himself for our sins” (Gal 1:4). He paid the penalty so that all who believe on Him would experience forgiveness of sins and have eternal life. Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. For the fulfillment of the law, Jesus said that it is “no longer a tooth for a tooth and eye for an eye” (Mt 5:38) but “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:44-45).

Here’s the story of Elsa Joseph, a Jewish woman who was cut off from her two children, both girls, during World War II. Years later, she discovered that both of her daughters had been gassed at Auschwitz. A former concert violinist, Elsa’s response to this tragic news was to pick up her violin and go and play it in Germany. And there in the halls of the homeland of her children’s murderers, she played her violin and told her story that cried out to heaven for vengeance. But she did not seek vengeance. She spoke of the world’s deep need for reconciliation and forgiveness, without which it was tearing apart. “If I, a Jewish mother, can forgive what happened,” she said to her audience not only in Germany, but also in Ireland, Lebanon and Israel, “then why can you not sink your differences and be reconciled to one another?” Forgiving surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. The only way to remain a community of love is for each one of us be ready to forgive and ask for forgiveness for every failure. Both the offender and the offended have their own responsibilities to fulfill.

How can overcome my anger and not to take revenge? Look at Jesus on the cross. He said, “Forgive them Father. For they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Henri Nouwen wrote: “If you feel very upset or angry, your tendency is to lash out, to condemn, or to take revenge. Try to wait before reacting. Talk to yourself and say, ‘Don’t act, and don’t do anything right now. This is not a time to make decisions. This is not a time to act. This is just a time to wait.’ You know that taking revenge makes you vengeful, and lashing out pulls you away from your true identity as a lover. You also know that you may regret your felt reaction. Give yourself time to remember who you are. Take time to get things back into proportion and to realize that you didn’t always feel this way. Learn to wait and to listen from the communion that you experience with the Father. Learn to become like the God who loves you will all your darkness and with all your beauty. Stop and go within to allow the Spirit, the breath of God, to touch you and to transform your dark thoughts and feelings. You are only a child and you need help to act and react as a true child of light.” This is how to go about Jesus’ fulfillment of the commandments with the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12) – “the love that comes from God and that gives meaning to life, love that makes us live not as slaves but as true sons, love that animates all our relations: with God, with ourselves – we often forget this – and with others. True liberty is not to follow our egoism, our blind passions, but to love, to choose what is good in every situation” (Pope Francis, June 10,2013). Bishop Fulton Sheen’s three kinds of love, please click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/?p=2095

Reflection 5 – Great are those who teach and obey the commandments

Why do people tend to view the “law of God” negatively rather than positively? Jesus’ attitude towards the law of God can be summed up in the great prayer of Psalm 119: “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

For the people of Israel the “law” could refer to the ten commandments or to the five Books of Moses, called the Pentateuch or Torah, which explain the commandments and ordinances of God for his people. The “law” also referred to the whole teaching or way of life which God gave to his people. The Jews in Jesus’ time also used it as a description of the oral or scribal law. Needless to say, the scribes added many more things to the law than God intended. That is why Jesus often condemned the scribal law because it placed burdens on people which God had not intended.

The essence of God’s law
Jesus made it very clear that the essence of God’s law – his commandments and way of life, must be fulfilled. God’s law is true and righteous because it flows from his love, goodness, and holiness. It is a law of grace, love, and freedom for us. That is why God commands us to love him above all else and to follow in the way of his Son, the Lord Jesus who taught us how to love by laying down our lives for one another.

Reverence and respect
Jesus taught reverence and respect for God’s law – reverence for God himself, reverence for the Lord’s Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person’s good name, respect for oneself and for one’s neighbor lest wrong or hurtful desires master and enslave us. Reverence and respect for God’s commandments teach us the way of love – love of God and love of neighbor. What is impossible to humans is possible to God who gives generously of his gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit to those who put their faith and trust in him.

God gives us the grace, help, and strength to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think and judge as he judges, and to act as he acts with mercy, loving-kindness, and goodness. The Lord loves righteousness and hates wickedness. As his followers we must love his commandments and hate every form of sin and wrong-doing. If we want to live righteously as God desires for us, then we must know and understand the intention of God’s commands for us, and decide in our heart to obey the Lord. Do you seek to understand the intention of his law and to grow in wisdom of his ways?

The Holy Spirit transforms our minds and hearts
Jesus promised his disciples that he would give them the gift of the Holy Spirit who writes God’s law of love and truth on our hearts. The Holy Spirit teaches us God’s truth and gives us wisdom and understanding of God’s ways. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, strengthens us in temptation, and transforms us, day by day, into the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Merciful Savior and Humble Lord. There is great blessing and reward for those who obey God’s commandments and who encourage others, especially the younger generations, to love, respect, and obey the Lord. Do you trust in God’s love and allow his Holy Spirit to fill you with a thirst for holiness and righteousness in every area of your life? Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with a burning desire and reverence for God’s life-giving word so that you may grow day by day in the wisdom and knowledge of God’s love, truth, and goodness.

“Lord Jesus, begin a new work of love within me. Instill in me a greater love and respect for your commandments. Give me a burning desire to live a life of holiness and righteousness. Purify my thoughts, desires, and intentions that I may only desire what is pleasing to you and in accord with your will.” – Read the source: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2017/feb12.htm

Reflection 6 – Keeping the Least of the Commandments

“The Decalogue, the “Ten Words” or Ten Commandments, which comes from the Torah of Moses, is a shining light for ethical principles, hope, and dialogue, a guiding star of faith and morals for the people of God, and it also enlightens and guides the path of Christians. It constitutes a beacon and a norm of life in justice and love, a “great ethical code” for all humanity. The Ten Commandments shed light on good and evil, on truth and falsehood, on justice and injustice, and they match the criteria of every human person’s right conscience….

“The Ten Commandments require that we recognize the one Lord, against the temptation to construct other idols, to make golden calves. In our world there are many who do not know God or who consider him superfluous, without relevance for their lives; hence, other new gods have transcendent dimension, witnessing to the one God, is a precious service….

“The Ten Commandments call us to respect life and to protect it against every injustice and abuse, recognizing the worth of each human person, created in the image and likeness of God. How often, in every part of the world, near and far, the dignity, the freedom, and the rights of human beings are trampled upon! Bearing witness together to the supreme value of life, against all selfishness, is an important contribution to a new world where justice and peace reign, a world marked by that “shalom” which the lawgivers, the prophets, and the sages of Israel longed to see.

“The Ten Commandments call us to preserve and to promote the sanctity of the family, in which the personal and reciprocal, faithful and definitive “Yes” of man and woman makes room for the future, for the authentic humanity of each, and makes them open, at the same time, to the gift of new life. To witness that the family continues to be the essential cell of society and the basic environment in which human virtues are learned and practiced is a precious service offered in the construction of a world with a more human face” (Source: Pope Benedict XVI, 2005-2013 A.D., Magnificat, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 140-141).

Reflection 7 – Pope Francis, Yes to God

Pope Francis admits that the very idea of a commandment is not fashionable today, but that the Ten Commandments come from a God who wants what is best for us. They are “not a hymn to ‘no,’ but to ‘yes,'” he says, “a ‘yes’ to God, a ‘yes’ to Love, and because I say ‘yes’ to Love, I say ‘no’ to non-Love.”

The Pope offered this reflection in a video message prepared for one of the events within the “10 Squares for 10 Commandments” initiative, organized by the Charismatic Renewal movement in Italy. The movement is marking its 40th anniversary in Italy.

“The Ten Commandments are a gift of God,” the Holy Father said. “The word ‘commandment’ is not fashionable; it reminds the man of today of something negative, the will of someone who imposes limits, who puts obstacles to life. […] But the Ten Commandments come from a God who has created us for love, from a God who has forged a close alliance with humanity, a God who only wills the good for man.”

Francis exhorted, “Let us trust God! Let us trust in Him! The Ten Commandments point out a path to follow” in a world of injustice. He added that the Commandments “indicate a path of liberty.”

“We must not see the Ten Commandments as limitations to liberty. No, they are not this, but we must see them as indications for liberty. They are not limitations but indications for liberty! They teach us to avoid the slavery to which the many idols reduce us that we build ourselves – we have experienced this so many times in history and we are experiencing it also today,” Francis said. “They teach us to open ourselves to a dimension that is larger than the material, to live respect for persons, overcoming the avidity for power, for possession, for money and to be honest and sincere in our relations, to protect the whole of creation and to nourish in our planet lofty, noble and spiritual ideals. To follow the Ten Commandments means to be faithful to ourselves, to our more authentic nature, and to walk towards the genuine liberty that Christ taught in the Beatitudes.”

The Pontiff spoke of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Commandments with the Beatitudes, noting that the heart of the Decalogue is “the Love that comes from God and that gives meaning to life, love that makes us live not as slaves but as true sons, love that animates all our relations: with God, with ourselves – we often forget this – and with others.”

“True liberty,” he said, “is not to follow our egoism, our blind passions, but to love, to choose what is good in every situation. The Ten Commandments are not a hymn to ‘no,’ but to ‘yes.’ A ‘yes’ to God, a ‘yes’ to Love, and because I say ‘yes’ to Love, I say ‘no’ to non-Love, but the ‘no’ is a consequence of that ‘yes’ that comes from God and makes us love.” (Pope Francis, June 10,2013)

Read the text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-commandments-aren-t-fashionable-but-are-hymn-to-love

Reflection 8 – In Defense Of Life

You shall not murder. —Exodus 20:13

DO NOT MURDER click this link:  http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/12/28/do-not-murder/

The Jews clearly understood that God’s commandment not to kill refers to murder-the malicious taking of human life. It doesn’t forbid governments to use the death penalty or to wage war. This commandment deals solely with private morality.

Exodus 20:13 is based on the divine truth that human life is sacred and that we must protect and preserve it. Every human being bears God’s image. Even an embryo is marked with a unique identity from the moment of conception. Life is God’s most precious gift, and only He has the right to take it. Abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide must all be viewed in the light of God’s right to our life. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW click this link: http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/12/28/the-ten-commandments-what-you-should-know/

Jesus brought this commandment to everyone’s doorstep when He said that to be angry at someone without cause makes us guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21-22). And John wrote, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). This makes us all murderers in desperate need of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

Thank You, Lord, for Your love and forgiveness. Help us by Your Holy Spirit to love others as You have loved us, and in so doing to value life, protect life, and enrich life as a gift from You.
Dennis J. De Haan

Points To Ponder
What did John mean when he said that if we hate
someone we are murderers? (1 John 3:15).
How does this truth help us to forgive those who hurt us?

Anger is just one letter short of danger (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 9 – Going Straight

First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. –Matthew 5:24

How far would you travel to put things right with a brother who hadn’t spoken to you in 10 years? Would you go 300 miles from Iowa to Wisconsin? On a riding lawn mower?

Unable to drive a car and despising bus travel, Alvin Straight did exactly that in the intriguing film The Straight Story. It is the true-life drama of a 73-year-old man who decided it was time to end the silence, stop the hating, and break down the wall of anger he and his brother had built between them.

As I watched the film in a packed theater, where the audience was silent from beginning to end, I thought of all the broken relationships that must have surfaced in the minds of people sitting there in the darkness. I also pondered the words of Jesus about setting things right with those from whom we’ve been estranged. He said, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

Is there a relative, a friend, or a brother in Christ with whom you need to make things right? Then why not go straight to that person and do it today?    — David C. McCasland

Lord, let me feel the pain of a wounded soul
And seek to heal that wounded one I pray;
Yes, I would take the reconciling role,
And bring an end to pain and strife today. —Hess

An offense against your neighbor builds a fence between you and God (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 10 – Erev Yom Kippur

First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. —Matthew 5:24

In Judaism, the holiest day of the year is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. On that day, the nation seeks God’s forgiveness for sins both personal and national.

What is interesting, however, is the day before Yom Kippur, known as Erev Yom Kippur. It represents a person’s last opportunity to seek forgiveness from other people before Yom Kippur begins. This is important because, in Jewish thought, you must seek forgiveness from other people before you can seek the forgiveness of God.

Today, we are called to do the same. Jesus pointed out that in order to worship Him with all our heart, we first need to resolve matters with others. In Matthew 5:23-24, He said, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Even in a matter so basic as our giving, the ability to truly worship God is hindered by the reality of relationships broken by our wrong actions, attitudes, and words.

So that our worship can be pleasing and acceptable to God, let us make every effort to be reconciled to one another—today.  — Bill Crowder

Have you hurt a friend or brother?
Go at once and make things right;
From your heart say, “Please forgive me.”
How these words bring God delight! —D. De Haan

An offense against your neighbor is a fence between you and God (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 11 – Make Peace

God . . . has given us the ministry of reconciliation. —2 Corinthians 5:18

It was a dramatic story of forgiveness. In December of 2000, on the Battleship Missouri Memorial, a dozen American survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor embraced three of the Japanese pilots who had flown attacking planes. The reconciliation ceremony had been arranged by the American-Japan Friendship Committee.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus brings to all of us the real need to be a reconciler and agent of forgiveness. He wants us always to take steps towards reconciliation. He set the importance of being reconciled with a brother in its proper place, even before we can do any works for the Lord. He said, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24).

That moving scene is only a dim reflection of what God’s grace does for us. Although we are sinful, we can be brought into a relationship with God through simple faith in Jesus. Because He died on the cross in our place, God blots out the record of our sins and makes us right with Him.

The Lord in His amazing love has not only forgiven us but has also given to us “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18) in the sacrament of confession. As part of our penance, we have the honor of sharing the good news with others so that they too can be at peace with God. And when we are right with God, we are also to do what we can to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).

Have you accepted God’s offer of forgiveness in Christ? Are you telling others about His love? And are you an agent of God’s grace in your relationships? Start today—make peace.

God has a purpose and plan for your life
When from your sin He has given release;
You’re an ambassador for Jesus Christ
Go and tell others of His perfect peace.

When we experience peace with God, we can share His peace with others (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 12 – $7.23 Plus Pride

First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. –Matthew 5:24

As I was studying the Old Testament law about making restitution for theft and property loss, I began to wonder how it applied to me. Immediately the words Bill’s pump came to mind. Months before, I had borrowed my neighbor’s pump to inflate a bicycle tire. It broke while I was using it. But I’m ashamed to admit that I returned it without saying anything to him.

It was obvious that God wanted me to confess my wrong to Bill and buy him a new pump. But my rationalizations were swift: It was old, and it would have broken anyway. It would be embarrassing to reveal my failure and show what a weak Christian I am.

My excuses sounded hollow. I knew the Lord wanted me to make it right. So I bought a pump and went over to Bill’s house, but he was out of town. At church the next morning, I started to drop my offering in the plate and remembered, “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:24). The money went back in my pocket.

When Bill returned, I told him what I’d done, apologized, and gave him the new pump. He graciously understood. It cost $7.23 plus pride–a small price to restore a relationship with a neighbor and a clear conscience with God.  — David C. McCasland

Show us, Lord, where we have failed
And sinned against a brother;
Give us courage to confess
Our faults to one another. –Sper

The only way to make things right is to admit that you’ve been wrong (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 13 – Take Action!

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. —Matthew 5:29

Shameful behavior is being displayed in magazines, movies, and on television. Immorality is even joked about. The world is seeking to convince everyone that nothing is sinful anymore. So we must be on guard against any compromise in our hearts.

While I was in the military, I realized that I was becoming unmoved by the obscene words and conduct of some of my fellow soldiers. When I recognized what was happening, I asked the Lord to restore my sensitivity to the grievous nature of sin.

A permissive attitude toward evil will lead us to fall into sin. That’s why we are to deal radically with every form of wickedness.

Jesus went so far as to say that we should pluck out our eye if it causes us to sin (Matthew 5:29). He didn’t mean we should maim our bodies, but rather we are to take strong action when tempted to sin. Books, magazines, or video images that arouse wrong desires must be deliberately avoided. This is also what Paul had in mind when he said we are to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). Someone who is indifferent to the sin around him or trifles with it in his own life is in grave danger.

We cannot ignore the seriousness of this issue. It’s time to take action!

Leave no unguarded place,
No weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace,
And fortify the whole. —Wesley

To avoid being tempted by forbidden fruit, stay away from the devil’s orchard (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).

Reflection 14 – Tear it out, cut it off

He who evaluates suffering at its true worth must accept it from God as a precious gift.

Ah, there is many a man, formerly a child of eternal death and slumbering in sin, who has been revived and roused to a holy life by suffering.

There is many a wild animal and untamed bird that is trapped by continual suffering as in a cage – if someone provided it with the time and opportunity, how quickly it would escape from its eternal bliss!

Suffering guards men against grave falls; it gives a man self-knowledge, makes him firm toward himself and compassionate toward his neighbor. Suffering preserves the soul in humility, teaches patience, guards purity, and brings the crown of eternal salvation.

It is practically impossible that suffering does not benefit a man in some way, whether he is yet in the state of sin, is just converted, making progress, or already arrived at perfection, because it scours the iron, purifies the gold, and embellishes the precious stones. Suffering takes away sin, shortens purgatory, drives away temptations, quenches carnal desires, and renews the spirit. It brings true confidence, a pure conscience, and an unwavering courage. Be convinced that it is a wholesome drink and the most beneficial herb of all paradise. It mortifies the body, which is destined to rot anyway, but nourishes the precious soul, which is to endure eternally…. Suffering gives a man wisdom and experience. A man who has not suffered, what does he know?

Suffering draws and forces people to God, whether they like it or not. He who suffers cheerfully is assisted by joy and sorrow, friend and foe (Source: Blessed Henry Suso, +1366 A.D., Magnificat, Vol. 18, No. 4, June 2016, pp. 134-135).

Reflection 15 – Living from the Inside Out
Things from outside of us constantly affect how we live on the inside. Temptations, for instance, come from outside, and they bid us to live as the world would have us live. But Jesus, throughout his Sermon on the Mount, bids us to live from the inside out, to orient our spirits to the will of the Father. Are you living primarily, right now, a life tossed around from the outside in? Or have you learned, as Jesus would have you do in today’s gospel: to live from the inside out?

Sirach tells us today that if you trust in God, you too shall live. He further reminds us that we are saved if we keep the commandments. We have a choice to make between life and death, good and evil. If our soul is rightly formed in love of God, we will not sin or seek injustice, but rather live in the immense wisdom of the Lord. Sirach bids us to live from the inside out, aware always of God’s powerful love for us.

And what is the Wisdom of the Lord? Our psalm today, Psalm 119—the longest of all the psalms—is an extended meditation on the law of the Lord, and the blameless condition of those who follow it. Indeed, Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord. Doing this, gives us obedient and trusting hearts, eyes that see, and clear-minded good will that discerns and chooses what is true. The psalmist bids us to make God’s will our own, and from this holy center, from this pure heart, to live from the inside out.

St. Paul asks us to do the same: not to live according to the rulers of this age who are passing away, but rather to live according to God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory. One who lives in the Spirit of God is mature. For such persons, God has prepared a destiny of joy, beyond our wildest imagination. To achieve that destiny, with the grace of God, we must live from the inside out.

Have you ever noticed how what you are thinking about, and how you are feeling, becomes what you speak, and what you do? Our internal preoccupations swiftly betray themselves to others in our words and deeds. Our thought becomes our action. This very simple truth is at the heart of what Jesus wishes to teach us in today’s gospel. Jesus’s words in the gospel come to us, it is true, from the outside. But as we hear them, they should awaken our deepest yearnings— yearnings that Jesus knows were planted in our souls by divine power when we were made in his image and likeness—yearnings for the good, for truth, for justice, and mercy, for beauty, love, and peace. This is the natural law written in our hearts by God, and if we obey that law, which is Divine Wisdom, Jesus affirms with Sirach, the psalmist, and St. Paul, that we will enter the kingdom of heaven. We don’t get there solely by our exterior acts, but if these flow from our purity of heart, we are not far from the kingdom.

The Pharisees are far from the kingdom because their exterior acts flow from a spirit of pride, self-righteousness, and vainglory. If they had followed the Mosaic code, even the smallest letter of that code, out of a spirit of trust and love of God, their exterior acts would be pleasing to God. Jesus affirms that he comes to fulfill, not to abolish the law, the fullness of its interior spirit, which was intended to cleanse hearts, making them docile recipients of God’s love and grace.

Jesus proceeds to instruct the apostles with three examples about how they must live from the inside out, and he does so with astounding authority, with the authority of God himself. Three times in today’s gospel, commenting on the moral teachings of Hebrew Scriptures, he says: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors”. . . followed by “but I say to you…!” In each case in his teachings about anger and murder, lust and adultery, and deception in oath- taking, he does not abolish the old moral teaching forbidding the particular sin, but rather extends and expands the old commandment, reminding us that sin begins in our hearts—which must be purified—long before we say, or do, anything evil. We sin first in our inmost heart, where God’s deep wisdom is first rejected. Then, like gods, we permit and justify ourselves to inflict evil on others in speech and action. The New Law, the New Commandment of Love, demands first our interior purification, which will keep us far away from the actual commission of sin. If we keep the interior spirit of beatitude that Jesus reveals to us, we can live in the spirit of God, and the freedom of his children. If not, as Sirach asserts, we will choose evil and death instead.

The Ten Commandments forbid murder, adultery, and perjury (or false oaths). These are forbidden by Jesus, too, but he clearly emphasizes that emotions such as anger, lust, and deception are the interior sources of these sins. He has come not to abolish the Old Law, but to fulfill it. Thus, instead of holding on to anger against our brother, rather we must reconcile with him, and only then shall we find peace. Only then can we confidently approach God in genuine purity of heart. We cannot hate our brother, and love God.

Instead of committing adultery in our hearts by nurturing our lusts, we must take custody of our eyes and hearts, allowing chastity of mind to regard others, not as objects of sexual desire, but rather as beautiful children of God, and temples of his Holy Spirit. Only then can we attain purity of heart and peace. Instead of deceiving others through false oaths, and thinking that we can thereby also deceive God, we should humbly and charitably speak only what is true. Only then can we enjoy integrity of heart, before man, and before God.

These three examples of the New Law of Jesus, as summarized in the beatitudes, and as further explained by him in the Sermon on the Mount, clearly show that for Our Lord, what mattered most was the human heart which, on its own, wanders deeply into the land of temptation and sin, and, thus, into the degradation, self-loathing, and despair that results from listening to the deceptive voice of the world, which is the voice of the evil one.

But the voice of Christ, the Word of God—the one who is the way, the truth, and the life—speaks directly to hearts fashioned and known by him. Let us approach the altar of the Lord today in purity of heart, yearning for union with him in this Eucharist. Let us truly reconcile ourselves to one another in the “Kiss of Peace,” and then invite Christ to incorporate us into his Precious Body through communion with him, who has revealed to us, his little ones, the mysteries of the kingdom. Come, let us enter into His joy and peace, from the inside out. – Read the source: http://www.hprweb.com/2017/01/homilies-for-february-2017/

Reflection 16 – Love is the fulfillment of the law.

The opening prayer of the Mass of this 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) is: “O God, you who reveal the fullness of the law in the new justice founded on love, make the Christian people, gathered to offer the perfect sacrifice, consistent with the demands of the Gospel, and be for every man a sign of reconciliation and peace “(Prayer of the sixth Sunday of the year).

With this prayer that sums up the Liturgy of the Word, the Church invites us to pray that the evangelical law of love may guide the thoughts and the actions of each of us. When there is no love everything becomes difficult, heavy and often unacceptable and there is no human rule that can stand in front of those who do not love and don’t feel in the heart the voice of God who is love. For this reason the Liturgy makes us pray with the opening prayer that can be used every year: “O God, you who have promised to be present in those who love you and with right and sincere heart guard your word, make us worthy to become your permanent home “.

In fact, in today’s Gospel, Christ does not simply offer updated rules that have improved because more complete. Saying: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill “(Mt 5, 17), Jesus says that he wants to complete the Law and the Prophets. The Redeemer gives complete fulfillment to the law because, complying with it, he does it and because, indicating love as a pivot of the law, he completes it: everything is done in love.

Let’s not forget that all the commandments are expression of God and the source of love among us. They are the cornerstone of life that builds the way to heaven, as -for example- the Sirach reminds us. It teaches: “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.“(Sir 15: 16-21 – Second Reading of today’s Mass).

It is important to remember that already the Law (the Torah given to Moses) is first of all a gift that God has given to his people in order for them to know his saving will. An example of this thinking can be found in Psalm 119 where the praises of the law are sung and that makes us pray: “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. 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.“(Ps 118 17-18.34-36).

Today with the new Law Jesus, the new Moses, gives us a command that teach us to build our life and the relationship with the Lord as response of love to his infinite love, the only true source of salvation. Salvation comes from the Lord, it is love, it is not from the law, it is not from our works, but from God. Our works and the observance of precepts should be there, but in faith and in love. In faith, knowing that it is the Lord who gives us every grace and salvation and we are happy to live in humility and truth before God. In love, that it is to be passionate and in love with God because He has conquered us. In love, that is sharing and giving ourselves to the others, excluding judgements, feeling superior, confrontation, contempt, and exclusion from the salvation of the Lord. These are typical behaviors of the Pharisees and ours due to the many forms of self-righteousness that we carry inside.

 But I tell you…

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, several times repeats: “But I say to you …” He does not oppose the Old Testament. The Lord does not want a formal fulfillment of the law that does not involve the heart; Knowing fully well that what pollutes a man is violence, judgments, treasons coming out of the heart, He came to “fulfill” the old law. He has totally donated and offered himself to the Father and, risen from the dead, he gives us a new spirit. We do not enter into the Kingdom of God with the meticulous observance of the law, like the scribes and Pharisees did. Now a “higher justice is possible”: “Be holy as I am holy” (Lev 19, 2).

The “righteousness of the scribes and of the Pharisees” had, like ours, the limits of its own flesh, because it is based on works that have lost the taste of the gratuity, and are a dead thing without the Spirit. This is demonstrated in today’s Gospel by the words of Jesus: ““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 “(Mt 5: 21s). These statements seem to say that Jesus pronounces absurd words such as: “A thought that just touches the mind, and is like killing a man.” Pope Francis has clearly reminded that gossip and grudges are subtle and “easy” form of murder: “Those who in their hearts hate their brother are murderers. We are used to gossip. But how often our communities, even our family, are a hell where this crime of killing the brother and sister with the tongue is done. “

They are paradoxical words that reveal the evil that flows into the hearts of all: if we are not able to “think well” how could we being able to “do well”? We do many Masses and prayers, we do many good words and give good advice, we have many humble eyes, but where is the heart? What happened to our neighbor: our father, mother, blood brothers and sisters, neighbors and coworkers, and the brothers and sisters in the community? Killed in the heart, buried and forgotten.

It is not the good feelings but the heart (namely the root of our being) that must change.

The purpose of God’s law is nothing more than to cherish, nurture, and make the humanity of man blooming. That is why- I repeat- Jesus “commands “a single leap: the conversion of the heart.

The conversion of heart is experienced by the Virgin consecrated through  their consecration and  the perseverance in a journey in which in each of them (but this is also true for each of us) Christ is everything: “We are all of the Lord and Christ is everything for us: if you  desire to heal your wounds, he is a doctor; if you are distressed from the burning fever, he is the source; if you find yourself overwhelmed by guilt, he is justice; If you need help, he is strength; if you are afraid of death, he is life; if you desire heaven, he is the way; If you run from darkness, he is light; if you’re in search of food, he is nourishment “(St. Ambrose of Milan, De Virginibus, PL 16, 99).

The vocation of the Virgins is a call to flourish and to fulfill in Christ their humanity thanks to an angelic virtue. In this regard, St. Cyprian writing to virgins rightly says: “What we will be one day, you have already began to be. You already possess in this world the glory of the resurrection; you pass through the world without suffering its contamination. In preserving virginity and chastity, you are the equals of the angels of God “(De habitu virginum, 22: PL 4, 462).

Happy is the one who makes her life choices in the light of the law of the Lord and earnestly implores, through prayer, that the Lord will give her the strength to keep the law in her heart and observe it in everyday life. – Read the source: https://zenit.org/articles/love-fulfills-the-law/

Reflection 17 – The Law of Love

The Jewish religious authorities of Jesus’ day were often literalists in their interpretation of the Law of God. Jesus, however, gave a deeper meaning to the Law. He placed his focus on the goal of the Law: Love.

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus explains that we fail to fulfill the Law when our so-called obedience isn’t motivated by love.

Jesus completely fulfilled the true meaning of the Law. In doing so, he took upon himself our disobedience and died for us in the most generous gift of love.

As his followers, we also are to be generous with love. Obeying all the commandments — truly obeying them — requires loving God with our whole heart, all the time, and loving others as ourselves.

Jesus explains how to transform literal interpretations of God’s laws into the Law of Love. In each example, he shows that we are to choose the most loving approach to every problem, no matter how difficult.

His first topic is anger: Sinful anger is judgmental and we are judged by this sin. Jesus provides the remedy: Go and do whatever is necessary to be reconciled. This, he points out, is even more important than worshiping God. How genuine can our worship be if anger has replaced love in our hearts, since God is love?

Another example is lust, which is a counterfeit of love because it treats others as objects. And divorce from a valid marriage is a failure to love as Christ loves, who taught that love makes sacrifices and endures hardships. Remarriage, he says, furthers the sin because it’s unloving to the spouse of the original union.

Jesus extends this teaching to every area of life. Breaking an oath is unloving. Lying and never intending to keep the commitment is unloving. In fact, the entire Sermon on the Mount, of which this Gospel reading is a part, explains how to love.

Questions for Personal Reflection:
Were you ever treated unlovingly because of another person’s legalism? How did that experience hide the true nature of Jesus? What habits or addictions do you have that are unloving toward yourself? How do they affect others?

Questions for Community Faith Sharing:
Recall a time when someone treated you unfairly but you responded with an act of love. How difficult was it to give that love? What were the results? Name common ways that Christians fail to obey God. What did Jesus do to make up for those failures? For example, how do you suppose Jesus treats unborn babies who’ve been aborted or miscarried? – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2017-02-11

Reflection 18 – Can we build a community merely on the basis of law?

IN coming to the world, Jesus wished to establish on earth a new community, the initial embodiment of the kingdom of God. Which is why, he started to call his disciples who would become the germ of his community. Being a new community, it offers its members an entirely different way of life. Consequently, it has a distinctive standard of righteousness. According to Matthew, this righteousness, which disciples must attain, is far above that of the Pharisees (Matt 5:20). This is not to say that the latter’s was bad; or were the Pharisees as a whole a bunch of hypocrites, though that is how they are sometimes seen or perceived. In their action, their motive was to fulfill the stipulations of the people’s covenant with God. If they fulfilled what the law of Moses requires, it is because the will of God is enshrined in the law. Their righteousness is seen in their moral action which is in accord with the law.

For all that, however, Jesus claimed that his disciples must aspire for a new righteousness, which is far above that of the Pharisees. The establishment of that kingdom in the community of disciples requires it. Such righteousness does not take the form of a more strict observance of the law in its minute details, although it is thus sometimes understood. On the contrary, it goes beyond the legal requirement. Its motive is not simply the fulfillment of God’s will as found in the law. It is rather the fulfillment of his will as it is embodied in the life of Jesus himself which, if summarized, is a life of love. Of course, Jesus did not abolish he law; as he himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 5:17). But because the focus has shifted from the law to the person of Jesus, it is not surprising that we are given a new way of understanding the law, in particular, the commandments. In this new righteousness, the commandment is to be seen as part of one’s response to God’s offer in Jesus, and that response in love begins with thought and ends with its execution.

In the Gospel reading, Matthew gives us three examples. [1] The first is murder (Matt 5:21-26; Exod 20:13; Deut 5:17). Under the new righteousness, murder is not to be identified with the taking of life. The taking of life is simply the external display of a crime that really starts with anger. Anger, the source of violent crime, is part of murder and is as detestable, as it is opposed to love. We can murder a person by calling him names, by destroying his reputation. Thus, a Christian must remove anger in his heart by being constantly reconciled with other members of the community. [2] The same may be said of adultery (Matt 5:27-30; Exod 20:14; Deut 5:18). It is not enough that a Christian should avoid having sex with a person other than his marriage partner. A woman’s dignity can be violated by a man not simply by sexual intercourse. The very source of adultery, lust, is opposed to love, and adultery is simply the execution of a brewing lust in the mind of the adulterer. Hence, Jesus could say, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart” (Matt 5:28). [3] The last concerns the taking of oaths (Matt 5:33-37; Num 30:2). To call God a witness is not only to violate the majesty of God; it really reflects distrust in one’s neighbor. And distrust has no place in a relationship of love. For Jesus there is no need to take an oath. A word is sufficient guarantee of one’s truthfulness and fidelity.

The point is that, we cannot build a society which embodies the kingdom of God, if it is based merely on strict obedience to prohibitions. I may not murder, but I can hate, or refuse to forgive and talk with my brother in the community. In other words, it is possible that a community can violate the law internally, without having to execute the violation in external behavior. A community may follow all the Ten Commandments, yet it remains unable to exhibit the values of the kingdom in its life, if the members are not one in heart and mind (Acts 4:22). Which is why, law, whether in the Church or outside, is not sufficient for well being, and even for salvation. On the contrary, it can create hypocrites—people who may appear holy, but in really greedy, rapacious, and oppressive. In the new righteousness, one’s action is like spring water. If one gets clean water from the spring, it is because the source of the spring is clean. If the water is dirty, it is because the source itself has dirt. A sinful action is really a matter of inward thought and external action. We may not have sex with another person, but to seriously want it, to lustfully desire it, is no less heinous. And this destroys fraternal relationship. No community will ever externalize the kingdom of God unless its members love one another from the heart and in action. This is not to deny that law can organize a community, but it would be a community of corpses (ByMsgr. Lope C. Robredillo, SThD http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=91513).

Reflection 19 – Fulfilment of the Mosaic Law

Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Before the Angelus

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today’s liturgy presents to us another page of the Sermon on the Mount, which we find in Matthew’s Gospel (cf. 5:17-37). In this passage, Jesus wishes to help His listeners to reread the Mosaic Law. What was said in the old Covenant was true, but it was not all: Jesus came to fulfil it and to promote God’s Law in a definitive way, to the last iota (cf. v. 18). He manifests its original purpose and fulfils the authentic aspects, and He does all this through His preaching and even more so with the offer of Himself on the cross. Thus Jesus teaches how to carry out fully the will of God and He uses this word: with a “higher justice” in relation to that of the scribes and the Pharisees (cf. v. 20).  A justice animated by love, charity and mercy and, hence, capable of carrying out the essence of the Commandments, avoiding the risk of formalism. Formalism: I can do this, I can’t do that; up to here I can, up to here I can’t … No: more, more.

In particular, in today’s Gospel Jesus examines three aspects, three Commandments: homicide, adultery and swearing.

In regard to the Commandment ”do not kill,” He affirms that it is violated not only by effective homicide, but also by behavior that offends the dignity of the human person, including insulting words (cf. 22). These certainly do not have the same gravity and culpability, such as killing, but they are in the same line, because they are its premises and reveal the same ill-will. Jesus invites us not to establish a graded list of offenses, but to consider all of them harmful, in as much as moved by the intent to do evil to one’s neighbor. And Jesus gives an example. To insult: we are used to insulting, it’s like saying “good morning.” And this is in the same line as killing. One who insults his brother, kills in his heart his brother. Please, do not insult! We gain nothing …

Another fulfilment is contributed to the matrimonial law. Adultery was considered a violation of the right of property of man over woman. Instead, Jesus goes to the root of the evil. As one arrives at homicide through insults and offenses, so one arrives at adultery through intentions of possession in regard to a woman other than one’s wife. Adultery, like theft, corruption and all other sins, is first conceived in our innermost being and, once the mistaken choices are carried out in the heart, they are acted out in concrete behavior. And Jesus says: one who looks at a woman who is not one’s own with a spirit of possession is an adulterer in his heart; he has begun the path to adultery. Let us think a bit about this, about evil thoughts that come in this line.

Jesus then says to his disciples not to swear, in as much as swearing is a sign of the insecurity and of the double-dealing with which human relations are carried out. God’s authority is instrumentalized to guarantee our human affairs. Instead, we are called to establish among us, in our families and in our communities an atmosphere of limpidity and mutual trust, so that we can be held to be sincere without taking recourse to higher interventions to be believed. Diffidence and mutual suspicion always threaten serenity!

May the Virgin Mary, woman of docile listening and joyous obedience help us to approach the Gospel ever more, to be Christians of substance, not “of facade!” And this is possible with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to do everything with love, and thus to fully carry out the will of God. –  Read the source: https://zenit.org/articles/angelus-address-fulfilment-of-the-mosaic-law/

Reflection 20 – St. Apollonia (d. 249 A.D.)

The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned.

While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.

There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.

Comment:

The Church has quite a sense of humor! Apollonia is honored as the patron saint of dentists, but this woman who had her teeth extracted without anesthetic surely ought to be the patron of those who dread the chair. She might also be the patron of the aging, for she attained glory in her old age, standing firm before her persecutors even as her fellow Christians fled the city. However we choose to honor her, she remains a model of courage for us.

Patron Saint of: Dentists, Toothache

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1303

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Apollonia
SAINT APOLLONIA
Francisco de Zurbarán 035.jpg

Saint Apollonia, by Francisco de ZurbaránMuseum of Louvre, from the Convent of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy and the Redemption of the Captives Discalced of Saint Joseph (Seville).
VIRGIN & MARTYR
BORN 2nd century
DIED 249
Alexandria, Egypt
VENERATED IN Coptic Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
Roman Catholic Church
FEAST February 9
ATTRIBUTES Tongs (sometimes with a tooth in them), depicted holding a cross or martyr’s palm or crown
PATRONAGE Dentists
Tooth problems
Achterbos, Belgium
Ariccia, Italy
Cuccaro Monferrato, Italy

Saint Apollonia was one of a group of virgin martyrs who suffered in Alexandria during a local uprising against theChristians prior to the persecution of Decius. According to legend, her torture included having all of her teeth violently pulled out or shattered. For this reason, she is popularly regarded as the patroness of dentistry and those suffering from toothache or other dental problems. French court painter Jehan Fouquet painted the scene of St. Apollonia’s torture in The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia.[1]

Martyrdom[edit]

Torture of Saint Apollonia (1513,Heilsbronn Cathedral, Bavaria).

Ecclesiastical historians have claimed that in the last years of Emperor Philip the Arab (reigned 244–249), during otherwise undocumented festivities to commemorate the millennium of the founding of Rome (traditionally in 753 BC, putting the date about 248), the fury of the Alexandrian mob rose to a great height, and when one of their poets prophesied a calamity, they committed bloody outrages on the Christians, whom the authorities made no effort to protect.

Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria (247–265), relates the sufferings of his people in a letter addressed to Fabius, Bishop of Antioch, of which long extracts have been preserved in EusebiusHistoria Ecclesiae.[2] After describing how a Christian man and woman, Metras and Quinta, were seized and killed by the mob, and how the houses of several other Christians were pillaged, Dionysius continues:

“At that time Apollonia, parthénos presbytis (mostly likely meaning a deaconess) was held in high esteem. These men seized her also and by repeated blows broke all her teeth. They then erected outside the city gates a pile of fagots and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to repeat after them impious words (either a blasphemy against Christ, or an invocation of the heathen gods). Given, at her own request, a little freedom, she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death.”[3]

This brief tale was extended and moralized in Jacobus de Voragine‘s Golden Legend (c. 1260).

Fresco of Saint Apollonia
(St. Nicholas Church, Stralsund).

Apollonia and a whole group of early martyrs did not await the death they were threatened with, but either to preserve their chastity or because they were confronted with the alternative of renouncing their faith or suffering death, voluntarily embraced the death prepared for them, an action that runs perilously close to suicide, some thought.Augustine of Hippo touches on this question in the first book of The City of God, apropos suicide:

“But, they say, during the time of persecution certain holy women plunged into the water with the intention of being swept away by the waves and drowned, and thus preserve their threatened chastity. Although they quitted life in this wise, nevertheless they receive high honour as martyrs in the Catholic Church and their feasts are observed with great ceremony. This is a matter on which I dare not pass judgment lightly. For I know not but that the Church was divinely authorized through trustworthy revelations to honour thus the memory of these Christians. It may be that such is the case. May it not be, too, that these acted in such a manner, not through human caprice but on the command of God, not erroneously but through obedience, as we must believe in the case of Samson? When, however, God gives a command and makes it clearly known, who would account obedience there to a crime or condemn such pious devotion and ready service?”[4]

The narrative of Dionysius does not suggest the slightest reproach as to this act of St. Apollonia; in his eyes she was as much a martyr as the others, and as such she was revered in the Alexandrian Church. In time, her feast was also popular in the West. A later narrative mistakenly duplicated Apollonia, making her a Christian virgin of Rome in the reign of Julian the Apostate, suffering the same dental fate.

Veneration[edit]

Reliquary containing a tooth reputedly that of Saint Apollonia, in theCathedral of Porto, Portugal.

The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches celebrate the feast day of St. Apollonia on February 9, and she is popularly invoked against the toothache because of the torments she had to endure. She is represented in art with pincers in which a tooth is held. In a late 14th-century illumination from a French manuscript, the tooth in her pincers glows from within, like a lightbulb.[citation needed]

Saint Apollonia is one of the two patron saints of Catania.

William S. Walsh noted that, though the major part of her relics were preserved in the former church of St. Apollonia at Rome, her head at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, her arms at the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, parts of her jaw in St. Basil’s, and other relics are in the Jesuit church at Antwerp, in St. Augustine’s at Brussels, in the Jesuit church at Mechlin, in St. Cross at Liege, in the treasury of the cathedral of Porto, and in several churches at Cologne.[5]These relics consist in some cases of a solitary tooth or a splinter of bone. In the Middle Ages, objects claimed to be her teeth were sold as toothache cures. During the reign of Henry VI of England, several tons of these purported teeth were collected in an effort to stop the scam.[citation needed]

There was a church dedicated to her in Rome, near the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, but it no longer exists. Only its little square, the Piazza Sant’Apollonia remains. One of the principal train stations of Lisbon is also named for this saint. There is a statue of Saint Apollonia in the church at Locronan, France. The island of Mauritius was originally named Santa Apolónia in her honor in 1507 by Portuguese navigators.[citation needed] A parish church in Eilendorf, a suburb of Aachen, Germany, is named in honor of Saint Apollonia.

Presence in England[edit]

The stained glass image in Kingskerswell church

In England, there are 52 known images of her in various churches which survived the ravages of the 16th century Commissioners. These are concentrated in Devon and East Anglia. Most of these images are on the panels of rood screens or featured in stained glass with only one being a stone capital (Stokeinteignhead, Devon). She is also depicted in a tapestry of circa 1499 at St. Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry.

By county, some of the locations are:

Poundstock
  • Devon:
Alphington (now gone), Ashton, Combe Martin, Exeter Cathedral (tapestry in St. Gabriel’s chapel), Holne, Kenn, Kenton,Kingskerswell (see photo), Manaton, Payhembury, South Milton, Stoke-in-Teignhead, Torbryan, Ugborough, Whimple (now gone), Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Wolborough (Newton Abbot)
Long Sutton
Barton Turf, Docking, Horsham St Faith, Ludham, Norwich (St. Stephen’s), Norwich-over-the-water (church disused),Sandringham
  • Suffolk:
Norton, Somerleyton, Westhall, Chilton

Her image is the side support of the arms of the British Dental Association.

Notes[edit]

  1. Jump up^ Olmert, Michael (1996). Milton’s Teeth and Ovid’s Umbrella: Curiouser & Curiouser Adventures in History, p.66. Simon & Schuster, New York. ISBN 0-684-80164-7.
  2. Jump up^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesiae, I:vi: 41.
  3. Jump up^ “St. Apollonia”. Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  4. Jump up^ Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, I:26
  5. Jump up^ William S. Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs And of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities, 1897

References[edit]