OT VI [A] Sunday (Feb 12) Eight-minute homily in one page
Introduction: Today’s readings challenge us to choose freely and wisely to observe the laws given by a loving and caring God. He revealed His laws to His Chosen People through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament, and through His own Son, Jesus, in the New Testament. For the Israelites, the Torah was not a set of laws, but the instruction or teaching intended to promote the holiness and wholeness of each believer. It was the revealed will of a caring God, for the people with whom had He made His covenant. In today’s gospel Jesus as a new law-giver reinterprets four Mosaic laws. (An anecdote may be added)
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from Sirach, contains the clearest statement in the Old Testament concerning the God-given freedom of the human will. It exonerates God from all responsibility for evil in the world. “If you choose, you can keep the commandments . . . before you are life and death, whichever you choose shall be given you.” In the second reading, Paul challenges his Corinthian believers to appreciate the wisdom of God’s saving plan for His people, a plan hidden for ages but now revealed by the Spirit. In the selection from the Sermon on the Mount in today’s Gospel, while challenging his disciples to live a life of justice and righteousness which should exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus, as the new lawgiver, sets forth his own position with regard to the Law given through Moses, by providing new interpretation and meaning for the old laws. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus explains the real meaning of three Mosaic laws concerning murder, adultery, divorce and false oaths. Anger is murder, impure look is adultery and unlawful divorce is double violation of natural law and covenant with God and false oaths are sacrilegious.
Life messages: 1) We need to obey God’s Law, appreciating its basic principles: In obeying God’s law and Church law, let us remember the two basic principles on which these laws are based, namely, the principle of reverence and the principle of respect. In the first four of the Ten Commandments, we are asked to reverence God, reverence His holy Name, reverence His holy day, and reverence our father and mother. The next six commandments instruct us to respect life, one’s personal integrity and good name, the legal system, another’s property and another’s spouse. Our obedience to these laws must be prompted by love of God and gratitude to God for His blessings. Jesus explains that anger is murder, evil thoughts, words, looks and behavior are adultery, unlawful divorce is sinful and false oaths are sacrilegious.
2) We need to forgive, forget, and move toward reconciliation as soon as possible. St. Paul advises us “Be angry (righteous anger) but do not sin” (Eph 4:26). When we keep anger in our spirit, we are inviting physical illnesses, like hypertension, and mental illnesses, like depression. Let us relax and keep silence when we are angry, wait before acting on our anger, giving it time to detoxify and cool off, pray for God’s strength for self-control, and give the Holy Spirit time to help us to see the event through Jesus’ eyes instead of through anger’s eyes.
3) We need to be true to God, to ourselves, and to others. Let us allow God’s word of truth to penetrate our minds and hearts and to form our consciences, making us men and women of integrity. (L/23)
O T VI [A] (Feb 12): Sir 15:15-20, I Cor 2:6-10, Mt 5:17-37
Homily starter anecdotes: 1) “I’ve got good news and bad news.” A cartoon in a national magazine shows Moses with two tablets under his arm coming down a mountain. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” he says. “The good news is I got Him down to ten. The bad news is adultery is still in there.” Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard once said: “Most people believe that the Christian Commandments are intentionally a little too severe, like setting a clock half an hour ahead to make sure of not being late in the morning.” Cable TV wizard, Ted Turner said that the Ten Commandments are out of date. I wonder which ones he would scrap. “Thou shalt not kill?” Absurd. Or “Thou shalt not steal?” Try stealing CNN’s signal without paying for it. Probably he had in mind, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Turner has been wrong before. — The Ten Commandments will never be obsolete. Adultery is just as serious now as it was then. And neither God in the Old Testament nor Jesus in the New “intentionally [made His Commandments] a little too severe.” Jesus knew that happiness comes from living according to God’s laws. Breaking those laws, or sinning, brings unhappiness and even death. The life of integrity, or righteousness, is the life God intends for us to live. So according to the Sermon on the Mount, integrity is a big deal. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) Passion and Reason: The Greek philosopher, Plato, four hundred years before Christ, wrote of two horses in the human heart, Passion and Reason. Passion is the wild untamed horse with boundless strength and energy, but very hard to control and direct. Reason is the tamed horse, accustomed to the reins, disciplined in stride and responding to directions. A chariot hitched to a pair of Passions might go anywhere but would surely crash or overturn before long. However, a charioteer who selects a pair of Reasons will be too cautious and fearful to go anywhere worthwhile. But if Passion and Reason can be paired, then the powerful energy is harnessed, and the journey of life can be enjoyed. – The teaching of Jesus strongly affirms the need for rules, but rules are to be understood as a means to the end, which is a life of spiritual strength and commitment. (Sylvester O’Flynn in The Good News of Mathew’s Year). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) Anger destroyed his life: Two great men were born in the year 1564 A.D. One man, Shakespeare, lived to the age of fifty-two and became the greatest dramatist of the English language. The other, Christopher Marlowe, perished midway in his life at the age of twenty-nine, because of his anger. Christopher wrote some of the best tragical plays at a very young age. One of his best plays is The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Dr. Faustus. Had he lived longer he probably would have become greater than Shakespeare. But he was a man given to anger. He picked up a quarrel with a man in a tavern. That man challenged him to a sword fight unto death. They both fought and Christopher was mortally wounded and later succumbed to his injuries. A great promise was terminated because of anger. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Introduction: Today’s readings challenge us to choose freely and wisely in order to observe the laws given us by a loving and caring God. God revealed His laws through Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament and through His own Son, Jesus, in the New Testament. For the Israelites, the Torah was not a set of laws, but the instructions or teachings intended to promote the holiness and wholeness of each believer. It was the revealed will of a caring God for His Chosen People, those with whom He had made His covenant. The first reading, from Sirach, contains the clearest statement in the Old Testament concerning the God-given freedom of the human will and exonerating God from all responsibility for evil in the world. “If you choose, you can keep the commandments . . . before you are life and death, whichever you choose shall be given you.” In the second reading, Paul challenges his Corinthian believers to appreciate the wisdom of God’s saving plan for His people, a plan hidden for ages but now revealed by the Spirit. In today’s Gospel, while challenging his disciples to live a life of justice and righteousness which would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus sets forth his own position with regard to the Law given through Moses by providing a new interpretation and meaning for the old laws. Jesus shows us how to go to the root of the commandments about murder, adultery, divorce, taking foolish oaths, retaliation against, and love of, neighbor.
First reading, Sirach 15:15-20 explained: The book of Sirach, one of the seven “Deuterocanonical” books, was written very late in Old Testament times. The author lived in a cosmopolitan, mostly pagan, community that did not support his religious values. Hence, his book was intended for Diaspora, Jews who were exposed to the pervasive influence of a Hellenistic culture which believed that humans were helpless pawns in the hands of the gods. He asserted that there should be no compromise with the prevailing culture when it came to keeping God’s law. God never forces us to do good or evil. It is our free choice to obey or disobey God’s laws, and we are responsible for the serious consequences of our choices. This is the clearest statement in all of the canonical and deuterocanonical OT writings on the subject of human free will. This reading and the Gospel lend solemnity and authority to each other. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 119), declares, ”Blessed are they who observe His decrees, who seek Him with all their heart” (v 2)
The second reading, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 explained. Paul here contrasts the wisdom of the prevailing Greek culture with the wisdom of God, advising Christians to seek true wisdom in God’s revelation instead of indulging in endless discussions of Greek philosophy. God in His wisdom has saved us through Jesus and prepared for those love Him, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart.”
Gospel exegesis: Jesus came to give the Torah its full meaning: In Jesus’ time, the Law was understood differently by different groups of the Jews to be 1) The Ten Commandments, 2) The Pentateuch, 3) The Law and the Prophets, or 4) The oral (Scribal) and the written Law. The Jews believed that the Torah (Law given through Moses), was the eternal and unchangeable Self-revelation of God. (According to a 3rd century rabbi, Moses gave 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. David reduced them to 11 in Psalm 15. Isaiah made them 6 (Isaiah 33:14, 15). Micah 6:8 binds them into 3 commands. Habakkuk reduces them all to one great statement: “The just shall live by Faith.”) Jesus, and later Paul, considered the oral Law as interpreted by the scribes a heavy burden on the people and criticized it, while honoring the Mosaic Law and the teachings of the prophets. Today’s Gospel passage, from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” presents Jesus as giving the highest compliments to the Mosaic Law, although he himself would be condemned later and crucified as a Lawbreaker. Jesus says that, as the word of God, the Old Testament has a Divine authority and deserves total respect. Its moral precepts are to be respected because they are, for the most part, specific, Divine-positive promulgations of the natural law. For the Scribes and the Pharisees, the external fulfillment of the precepts of the Mosaic Law was a guarantee of a person’s salvation. Jesus rejects this view in today’s Gospel passage, taken from the “Sermon on the Mount.” For Jesus, justification, or sanctification, is a grace from God. Man’s role is one of cooperating with that grace by being faithful to it. Jesus then outlines the new moral standards for his disciples. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that he did not come to destroy the Torah but to bring it to perfection by bringing out its inner meaning, because Jesus Himself is the ultimate Self-revelation of God, the Lawgiver. Jesus also explains the real meaning of three Mosaic laws concerning murder, adultery and false oaths.
Respect life in all its stages, in words and deed: Jesus explains that the fifth commandment means respecting life in all its stages by honoring others in words and deeds. This means that we have to control our anger because it is the rawest, strongest and most destructive of human emotions. Describing three stages of anger and the punishment each deserves, Jesus advises his disciples not to get angry in such a way that they sin. 1) Anger in the heart (“brief stage of insanity”– Cicero), has two forms: a) a sudden, blazing flame of anger which dies suddenly. b) a surge of anger which boils inside and lingers so that the heart seeks revenge and refuses to forgive or forget. Jesus prescribes trial and sentencing by the Village Court of Elders. 2) Anger in speech: Using words which are insulting (“raka“=“fool”), or damaging to the reputation (“moros” meaning a person of loose morals). Jesus says that such an angry one should be sent to the Sanhedrin or Jewish religion’s Supreme Court for trial and sentencing. 3) Anger in action: Sudden outbursts of uncontrollable anger often result in physical assault or abuse. Jesus says that such anger deserves hellfire as its punishment. In short, Jesus teaches that long-lasting anger is bad, contemptuous speech or destroying someone’s reputation is worse and harming another physically is the worst.
Jesus’ teaching on sexual sins: In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlines a new moral code for his followers, which is different from the Mosaic moral code. Jesus insists that adultery, the violation of the sixth commandment, is also committed through willfully generated evil and impure thoughts and desires which are willingly sustained in the mind. Our hands become agents of sin according to what we touch and how we touch, in lust or greed or violence. Our eyes become agents of sins according to what they look at. When Jesus recommends mutilation of eyes and hands, he is not speaking literally, because we have more sins than we have body-parts. Besides, even if all offending parts were removed, our minds — the source of all sins – would still be intact, causing us to sin by thoughts and desires. So, Jesus teaches us that, just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body, like an infected gall bladder, inflamed appendix, etc., in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to commit grave sin or which leads to spiritual death. Hence, these warnings are actually about our attitudes, dispositions, and inclinations. Jesus recommends that our hands become agents of compassion, healing and comfort and that our eyes learn to see the truth, goodness and beauty around us.
Jesus’ clear teaching on divorce: According Matthew’s version, adultery is the only ground for sanctioning divorce. Based on the NT teachings given in Mk 10:1-12, Mt. 5:31-32; Mt. 19:3-9; Lk 16:18; and 1 Cor 7:10-11, the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacrament involving both a sacred and legal contract between a man and a woman and, at the same time, is a special covenant with the Lord. “Divorce is also a grave offense against the natural law. Besides, it claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death …. Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society” (CCC # 2384, 2385).
We are to be men and women of integrity and character: According to the teachings of the Jewish rabbis, the world stands fast on truth, justice and peace; hence, liars, slanderers, scoffers and hypocrites will not enter Heaven. The rabbis classified two types of oaths as offensive to God: 1) frivolous oaths using God’s name to support a false statement, because this violates the second commandment and 2) evasive oaths using words like Heaven, Jerusalem, or my head, because God is everywhere, and He owns everything. Jesus interprets the Mosaic Law on oaths to mean that we should be righteous men and women of integrity and character. If one is honest in one’s words and deeds, there is no need for one to support one’s statements and transactions with oaths or swearing. How forceful are honest words! (Jb 6:25). An oath is a solemn invocation of God (So help me, God!) to bear witness to the truth of what one asserts to be the case or to the sincerity of one’s undertakings in regard to future actions. It is necessary and admissible to ask God’s help in the discharge of an important social duty (e.g., President’s oath of office), or while bearing witness in a court of law (“I will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth … “So, help me, God.”). Jesus teaches, “Say yes when you mean yes and say no when you mean no” (Mt 5:37). That is, he invites us to live in truth in every instance and to conform our thinking, our words, and our deeds to the truth.
Life messages: 1) We need to obey God’s Law, appreciating its basic principles: In obeying God’s law and Church law, let us remember the two basic principles on which these laws are based, namely, the principle of reverence and the principle of respect. In the first four of the Ten Commandments we are asked to reverence God, His holy Name and His holy Day and to reverence our father and mother. Th next six commandments instruct us to respect life, one’s personal integrity and good name, the legal system, another’s property and another’s spouse. Our obedience to the laws must be prompted by our love for God and our gratitude to God for His blessings. 2) We need to forgive, forget, and move toward reconciliation as soon as possible. St. Paul advises us “Be angry (righteous anger) but do not sin” (Eph 4:26). When we keep anger in our spirit, we are inviting physical illnesses, like hypertension, and mental illnesses, like depression. Let us relax and keep silence when we are angry, wait before acting on our anger, give it time to detoxify and cool off, pray for God’s strength for self-control, and give the Holy Spirit time to help us see the event through Jesus’ eyes instead of through anger’s eyes. 3) We need to be true to God, to ourselves and to others. Let us allow God’s word of truth to penetrate our minds and hearts and to form our consciences, making us men and women of integrity.
Jokes of the Week
1) Bless my ex-sister. Two sisters spent the day fighting. That evening they prepared for bed, still mad at each other. As usual, each knelt by the side of her bed for their prayers. “Dear God,” the 8-year-old began, “Bless Daddy and Mommy, bless our cat and dog.” Then she stopped. Her mother gently prodded, “Didn’t you forget somebody?” She glared across the bed at her 6-year-old sister and added, “And, oh yes, God, bless my ex-sister.” [Pulpit Resource (Jan-Mar 1992), p. 14.]
2) You win the war: My wife and I have a rule. We don’t fight on Saturday nights. You know why? Because I have to preach on Sunday morning. Now I don’t want you to get the idea that we fight the other six nights of the week. Quite frankly, I gave her an unconditional surrender several years ago. Husbands let me teach you a lesson that will save you a lot of grief. When it comes to your wife, if you lose the battle, you win the war. (Rev. Curtis Fussell).
3) “But if he is alive in the morning.” Little Johnny had a quarrel with his younger brother, Willy. Before he said his night prayers, Johnny’s mother said to him, “Now I want you to forgive your brother.” But Johnny was not in a forgiving mood.” No, I won’t forgive him”, he said. Mother tried persuasions of every motherly variety, but nothing worked. Finally, she said, “What if your brother were to die tonight? How would you feel if you knew that you hadn’t forgiven him?” Johnny gave in or so it seemed. “All right, I forgive him,” he said, “but if he is alive in the morning, I’ll get even with him.” — The Gospel invites us to reconcile with our brothers and sisters before we come to him. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word)
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
(For homilies & Bible study groups) (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).
1)Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies
2)Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)
3) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)
4) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle A Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/
5) Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/
6)Bishop Barron’s online videos: https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/video/
7) Bishop Barron’s audio Sunday homilies: https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/
8) Bishop Barron’s video message on people with no religion in the U. S. A.: https://youtu.be/pG2mtELrxkg?list=UUcMjLgeWNwqL2LBGS-iPb1A
9) The Catholic Lectionary website (Dr. Felix Just) http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/
10) “Traditional Mass lectionary”: http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Roman_Missal.htm
11) Movie clip: https://youtu.be/gMu4nQxumBM
12) Ask a priest: Q & A: https://rcspirituality.org/category/ask-a-priest/
13) Lectio Divina weekday homilies: https://ocarm.org/en/
35- Additional anecdotes
1) A marriage that disintegrated over a bar of soap. Philip Yancey in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? tells about a novel by a Nobel prize-winning author that illustrates how anger nursed in the heart destroys a marriage. In the novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez portrays a marriage that disintegrates over a bar of soap. “It was the wife’s job to keep the house in order, including provision of towels, toilet paper, and soap in the bathroom. One day she forgot to replace the soap, an oversight that her husband mentioned in an exaggerated way (‘I’ve been bathing for almost a week without any soap’), and that she vigorously denied. Although it turned out that she had indeed forgotten, her pride was at stake and she would not back down. For the next seven months they slept in separate rooms and ate in silence. “Even when they were old and placid,” writes Marquez, “they were very careful about bringing it up, for the barely healed wounds could begin to bleed again as if they had been inflicted only yesterday. — How can a bar of soap ruin a marriage? Because neither partner would say, ‘Stop. This cannot go on. I’m sorry. Forgive me.’” Today’s Gospel gives Jesus’ teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) Whichever you choose: John Trippe of Rochester, New York, developed a kidney malfunction at the age of five. By the time he was 27, this condition had so worsened that he was bedridden and constantly on a dialysis machine. There was only one possible permanent remedy, physicians assured the family – a kidney transplant. Transplant donors are usually sought among members of the patient’s family. Unfortunately, none of the older members of the Trippe family was found to qualify; neither the parents nor John’s four sisters. That left kid-brother Jerry who was only 16. It was a big decision for a teen-ager, so the family was careful to bring no pressure upon him. John himself, however much he desired to regain his health, neither encouraged Jerry to take the tests nor discouraged him. The choice had to be his own. Jerry decided to take the tests because he wanted to. He volunteered to submit to the almost excessive number of examinations required. He almost had to fight his way to be considered. The doctors and technicians warned him again and again to think twice about doing something he might live to regret. Final results of the tests showed that John and Jerry’s system matched closely. Hence there was 80-90% chance of successful transplant which could give John at least 24 more years to live. Jerry gave his consent. The operation took place November 17, 1981. The transfer of the one kidney from brother to brother was a success, and both recovered nicely. When an interviewer of the Democrat and Chronicle asked Jerry why he had fought so hard to give up a kidney, he said, “I love John, and I wanted to do it. It’s as simple as that!”– One of God’s gifts most like God Himself is His Gift to us of our free will. As today’s first reading says, “There are set before you fire and water: to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.” We can choose fire and be burned, or water and be refreshed. But we can choose, of our own free will. What better motive is there for choosing to sacrifice a part of our life than because we love our brother? (Fr. Robert F. McNamara) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “Blessed are they who follow the Law of the Lord!” A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII, was called by adoring New Yorkers ‘the Little Flower’ because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids. One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor.” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.” LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions–ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous Stetson hat saying: “Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore, I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.” So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation. In this story we see how the mayor of New York City maintained and defended the laws under his jurisdiction, not by merely keeping them himself, but much more than that by showing respect, even to the accused and being compassionate to her and helping her out at the same time. — Today is the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and through the Scripture Readings of today God calls us to a radical way of living. We are called to be more than just moral: God calls us to be virtuous. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/)..
4) “Never curse the umpire: Angelo Bartlett Giamatti was the President of Yale University, and later, the seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Giamatti loved baseball. He felt that the structure of the game was a paradigm of the human journey in which all of us seek to break from the box, make a wide turn and get home safely. At his memorial service, Giamatti’s son recalled endless hours in which his father (clad in a vest, a tie and a Red Sox cap) pitched them in to him. His son also recalled a word of advice, forcefully delivered after a Little League argument at first base (with father admonishing son): “Never curse the umpire. He’s the only one who knows the rules.” It was Giamatti’s contention, you see, that the beauty of the game … indeed, the very ballet of the game … required someone who could define the difference between ball and strike, fair and foul, safe and out, and who could also articulate the rules that give the game its structure. — For the rules are to baseball as the law is to life. They are not the game. But without them, the game has no meaning. Or, as a character exclaims in Woody Allen’s excellent film Crimes and Misdemeanors: “Without the law, all is darkness.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus reinterprets the Mosaic laws giving them a new meaning. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) Stealing a hammer is no big deal? A man confessed to his pastor that he stole something, a hammer, from the steel mill where he worked. Everybody was doing it, he said. No big deal. His pastor, though, told him about a report in the newspapers that thefts at this particular mill averaged out to a thousand dollars a week. His hammer along with what others were taking was costing the company over $50,000 a year. “To make up for that loss,” his pastor noted, “the factory raises the price of steel. Consequently, everyone who buys a car, purchases an appliance, remodels his house, etc., has to pay the price for your hammer. You didn’t hurt the company,” his pastor assured him, “you hurt everybody in this city” [B.A. Botkin, ed., A Treasury of American Anecdotes (New York: Galahad Books), pp. 205-206).] — And that’s true. We hurt the entire society when integrity is not maintained. It pays to be a person of integrity. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) Excluded from both groups: An amusing anecdote relates the experience of a group of theologians who were debating predestination and free will. Their arguing escalated to the point that the group divided into two factions. But one theologian was undecided as to which group he favored; finally, he decided to side with those who believed in predestination. When he came to join them, they asked, “Who sent you here?” “Nobody”, he replied, “I came of my own free will!” “Free will?!” they shouted. “You belong with the other group.” When he turned and tried to join the proponents of free will, they inquired, “When did you decide to join us?” “I didn’t decide,” the theologian responded. “I was sent here!” At this, the group shut him out saying, “You can’t join us unless you choose to do so by your own free will.” — In the end, the theologian was excluded from both groups. A similar debate concerning human free will forms the backdrop for today’s first reading from Jesus Ben Sirach. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) Phenol in the leaves: Recently, ecologists at the University of Washington found that willow trees transmit a warning to other willows from as far away as two hundred feet. When caterpillars are attacking, the trees emit a chemical signal that travels on the wind. This enables distant trees to prepare their protection, phenol in the leaves which is distasteful the caterpillars. This advance warning of an attack amazes scientists: The individual trees have the ability to behave in a way that benefits, not just themselves, but the whole species. [Melanie Brown, PH.D. Attaining Personal; Greatness, (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1987).] — Are we not a higher form of species than willow trees? That is why the Sermon on the Mount insists that we should treat other people as we would like to be treated. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) Dead body on the mattress for funeral: Henry Nouwen tells the story of a family he knew in Paraguay. The father, a Doctor, spoke out against the military regime there and its human rights abuses. Local police took their revenge on him by arresting his teenage son and torturing him to death. The father responded with the most powerful protest imaginable. At the funeral, the father displayed his son’s body as he had found it in the jail – naked, scarred from the electric shocks and cigarette burns and beatings. All the villagers filed past the corpse, which lay, not in a coffin, but on the blood-soaked mattress from the prison. [Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), p. 185.] — Is that not what God did at Calvary? He laid it all out there so all of us could see the price that must be paid for humanity’s refusal to obey God’s Law. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) Manage your anger: Richard F. Shepard in his book, In Enemy Waters, tells about two men he saw pummeling each other in a gutter where each had a car half-parked, one frontward, one backward, in a parking space. The irrationality of it all, he says, was emphasized by a sign in front of the parking place that said, “No Parking.” Of course, the point wasn’t that they were both trying to park in a no parking zone. The point was that they both were probably carrying around anger that was just waiting to erupt. There was an article in the newspapers about two men in Philadelphia who got into an argument over who was the better point guard, Allen Iverson of the 76ers or Gary Payton of the Seattle Supersonics. Words turned to gunfire and when the smoke cleared two innocent bystanders–a man and a woman, both of whom were parents of small children — lay dead. — Do you think that either combatant in those fights really cared that much the parking space, or who was the better point guard? Of course not. They were simply venting anger. Anger can make you do stupid things. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) “Don’t let her brush your hair.” In the book, Wit and Wisdom from the Peanut Butter Gang, by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. some children offer advice on spotting and dealing with anger. Morgan, age 11 says, “When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.” Lezlee, age 11 advises, “When your mother is mad and asks you, ‘Do I look stupid?’ it’s best not to answer her.” — Children become quite adept at spotting the signs of anger because so often they become the unsuspecting target of adult anger. Martin Luther King admonished his people “to avoid not only violence of deed but violence of spirit.” That’s sound advice based on the Sermon on the Mount. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) Angry argument splitting a family: The Knot of Vipers by Nobel prize winner Francois Mauriac tells a similar story of an old man who spends the last decades of his marriage sleeping down the hall from his wife. A rift had opened thirty years before over whether the husband showed enough concern when their five-year-old daughter fell ill. Now, neither husband nor wife is willing to take the first step. Every night he waits for her to approach him, but she never appears. Every night she lies awake waiting for him to approach her, and he never appears. Neither will break the cycle that began years before. Neither will forgive.” [Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D., Making Peace with your Parents, (Ballantine Books, 1983).] — Shall we say it again? “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” But it happens. Do not harbor negative thoughts in your heart. Often healing comes as soon as one party is willing to take the first step. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) What is the Sermon on the Mount? George Barna is a well-known Christian pollster and religious sociologist. One of his recent surveys opened with this indictment, “Americans revere the Bible, but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of Biblical illiterates.” Some of the data behind that summary is as follows: * Fewer than half of all adults can name the Four Gospels. * Sixty percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. * Eighty-two percent believe that the proverb, “God helps those who help themselves” is found in Scripture. For those who identify themselves as serious Christians, the percentage is only one percent better! * Twelve percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife! * Fifty percent of graduating high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife! [Quoted in R. Albert Mohler, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy,” Southern Seminary: The Tie,” Spring 2006, Vol. 74, No. 1, inside cover] (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “Stop the car and let me out!” Have you ever noticed that anger can cause us to do some dumb things? Several years ago, William F. Merten, of Mt. Clemens, Michigan, wrote to Readers’ Digest to tell about a memorable argument he had with his wife. The argument was well under way as they left a party one evening. Once they were in the car, words were flying. The area they were driving through was not the best, so they stopped arguing just long enough to lock the doors. Then they started again. Merton’s wife had really worked up a storm, and after a few choice words from him, she shouted, “Stop the car and let me out!” Merton pulled over to the curb. His wife unlocked the door and got out, but then looked around and got back in again. Looking a little sheepish she said, “Take me to a better neighborhood.” That broke them both up – and the argument too! Anger can cause us to do some dumb things. [William F. Merton in “Our Argument…. Argument too” –Reader’s Digest (Oct. 1983). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/). 14) Road rage: One of the phenomena we are seeing now in America is what is called road rage. Recently, on the Golden State Freeway in Sylmar, CA, Delfina Moralis and her daughter were irritated by an unnamed driver. Other motorists saw the two women tailgate a van and make angry gestures at the driver. When the van exited from the freeway, Mrs. Moralis followed closely and then got into position to spin her tires and splash the van with mud. She quickly spun around flinging mud and then drove up the ramp from which both vehicles had just exited. In her state of anger, she lost her bearings and treated the off ramp like an on ramp. She drove straight into oncoming freeway traffic. She and her daughter were instantly killed when they crashed into a Federal Express truck. — Anger, like that, can not only cause you to become a murderer in your heart but it can become the murderer of yourself. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) Da Vinci’s Last Supper: The story is told that when the painter Leonardo Da Vinci was painting “The Last Supper,” he had an intense and bitter argument with a fellow painter. Da Vinci began to think of a way to get back at this guy. He came up with a devious plan. He decided to paint the face of his enemy as the face of Judas Iscariot so it would be captured for all time, and that is exactly what he did. When people came to look at his work, while it was still in progress, they immediately knew who “Judas” was. Da Vinci got great joy out of portraying this man as Judas Iscariot. But as he continued his work on the painting of Jesus and his disciples, he finally came to the face he had saved for the very end-the face of Jesus. But he drew a mental blank. He had what writers call “writer’s block.” He could not paint a thing. Finally, God convicted him and showed him the trouble was he had painted the face of his enemy as the face of Judas Iscariot. — He realized that his hatred and bitterness was keeping him from being able to face the face of Christ. So, he went back to the image of Judas and painted some nebulous face. He went to his painter enemy, asked forgiveness, and they were reconciled. Then he went back and could clearly paint the face of Christ and finish one of the world’s greatest portraits. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) “I was also taught that you forgive people, no matter what.” The date was June 11, 1963; the place – The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Vivian Malone, a young black woman, enrolled that day as a freshman. Federal troops ensured her entrance, but the doorway was blocked by Governor George Wallace. Holding out for segregation, the governor ultimately failed, and Ms. Malone became the first African American to graduate from the University of Alabama. Vivian wasn’t the only newcomer that day. James Hood was at her side and needed encouragement. So, she slipped him a note; on it was this prayer: “Whatever may be our adversary this day, our Father, help us to face it with courage, for it can be conquered when Thou art with us. In faith we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.” Years later, after an assassination attempt and a deep change of heart, Wallace was rolled in his wheelchair into the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, and there, asked forgiveness. More particularly, the former governor regretted how he had treated Vivian and sought her forgiveness face to face. He wanted to make amends before he died. At their meeting, Vivian told him that she had forgiven him years earlier. Interviewed in 2003, she was asked about the meeting: “You said you’d forgiven him many years earlier?” “Oh yes.” “And why did you do that?” Her reply: — “This may sound weird. I’m a Christian, and I grew up in the Church. And I was taught that — just as I was taught that no other person was better than I — that we were all equal in the eyes of God. I was also taught that you forgive people, no matter what. And that was why I had to do it. I didn’t feel as if I had a choice.” (Edited by Newsweek, October 24, 2005, 10. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) Volunteers, please: Dr. Emil Coccaro has studied anger for decades. He says many hotheads suffer from a newly named pathology, Intermittent Explosive Disorder (I.E.D). Dr. Coccaro is championing treatment with the drug Depakote. — Oddly enough, an effort to find volunteers with volatile tempers for the clinical studies has been unproductive. Apparently, few people see their anger as a problem, and that is itself part of the problem. (PreachingToday.com) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) “You have room for one more VIP.” In 1962 came the Cuban missile crisis. It was a nuclear war standoff between the US and the USSR. In the event of attack, two thousand of the most important people in the US government were to be saved in a bomb shelter dug into a Virginia mountain. One VIP was Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. When he was handed his survival pass, Warren asked, “Where is my wife’s?” He was told she was not a VIP. Smiling, he handed the pass back. “In that case,” he said, “you have room for one more VIP.” — This is the type of marriage Jesus had in mind because nowhere in the 5000 years of recorded history was marriage in worse shape than when Jesus came with its high rate of divorce denying all rights to wives. (Fr. James Gilhooley). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) “I can’t help it.” A famous Jimmy Carter story illustrates this in a humorous way. When he was running for president, Carter mentioned in an interview that, although he had never been unfaithful to his wife, he had, he admitted, “committed adultery in my heart.” Back on the campaign trail, a married couple approached Carter, “This is my wife,” the man said with a smile, “but, please Mr. Carter, but don’t lust after her in your heart.” Carter looked at the portly, middle-aged lady and said, “I can’t help it.” — Well, Jimmy Carter had a way of being self-effacing. It was one of his better qualities. The whole issue of lustful desires is something that we need to approach with humility and good humor. When a person thinks he has it all under control and starts looking down on others, it often precedes a fall. (Fr. Phil Bloom) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) Be reconciled first: Little Johnny had a quarrel with his younger brother, Willie. Before he said his night prayers, Johnny’s mother said to him, “Now I want you to forgive your brother.” But Johnny was not in a forgiving mood. “No, I won’t forgive him.” He said. Mother tried persuasions of every motherly variety, but nothing worked. Finally, she said, “What if your brother were to die tonight? How would you feel if you knew you hadn’t forgiven him?” Johnny gave in, or so it seemed. “All right, I forgive him.” He said, “but if he’s alive in the morning, I’ll get even with him.” –Today’s Gospel invites us to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters first, before we come to him. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) Making choices out of love: Once Baal Shen, a Jewish Rabbi had a dream. He was in Heaven. He saw two empty seats and asked the angel for whom they were reserved. The angel told him one was for him and the other was for his companion if he used his intelligence. Baal Shen went to see his companion and found that although he was a Jew, he was not following the Jewish laws. He was a very happy man with a lovely family. The Rabbi asked him why he was not following the Jewish law. He said that he was very happy that he loved God and his neighbor. Then Baal Shen visited hell and found two empty seats there too. The devil told him one seat was for him and the other was for his companion. Baal Shen then went to his companion and found that he was a strict Jew who kept all the external laws, but he and his family were not happy. The Rabbi told him to change but he was not ready to change as he considered himself righteous for observing all the laws. From this Baal Shen concluded that truly good and happy people are righteous. But not all the righteous are good and happy. — We can be true to our calling as Christians if in addition to our love for God and neighbor we also attempt to keep the spirit of the law we practice, intact. – “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).