Thanks to the parishioner who left us a wagon. We can still use a few more. Again thanks to our volunteer school parent who cleared our grounds from the last snow fall. Please remember that Monday is a holiday so there will only be a 9 AM Mass. The office will still be open.
The new electronic sign has helped in advertising our parish’s availability for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. People seem to be coming from all over and many are returning to the Church after many years. It has also brought attention to our school. I was told that of the 20 famalies that came to the open house, 13 of them came because of the sign. You may notice some imperfections on the sign. The last snow storm with its power failures has damaged it and the repairs are scheduled to be made this Tuesday.
Once again we are asked to do the annual appeal to help the diocese in its charitable works. The structure of the Church starts with the Pope who delegates Bishops who in turn delegates Pastors to tend to the spiritual and material needs of the People of God. Our parish school benefitted from this Appeal with TV commercials which advertised our school on local cable stations. Some of our parishioners who are in college have also benefitted from campus ministry funded through the Appeal. There is a spiritual benefit to contributing to the Appeal. Recall how St. Paul was asked by St. Peter to support the poor in the church in Jerusalem. Charity has always been first and foremost in the works of our Church. That is why we have a commandment to contribute to the support of the Church. This support is on a parish level, a diocesan level and finally on a papal level. Whether it be something so small as a food pantry or as large as a peace treaty, our Church is actively involved in promoting social justice in so many ways to benefit the people of God by the spread of the Gospel. If you can respond to the Appeal as soon as possible, you can minimize postage to assist the Appeal.
Sirach reminds us that God knows everything, but most particularly each of us individually. He knows more detail than we know about the mystery of ourselves. Whatever actions we do, He knows exactly what our motives are and the circumstances that He has placed us into when we do it. In our fallen nature we try to justify our deeds, but God has clearly told us what we are required to do. We are never to act unjustly and He has never given us license to sin in any circumstance – even what we may judge to be little sins. He is all-seeing. We have free choice and we generally struggle with His commandments.
Jesus, on His Sermon on the Mount, directs us even further into the depths of what obedience to God is. In fulfilling the Law, Jesus is now not only demanding objective obedience, but also obedience in the heart. In other words, Jesus is asking us to retool our desires to fashion His way of thinking. Jesus makes His commandments more demanding requiring supernatural assistance achieved only by seeing the demands in the context of the Cross. Without this assistance, it is impossible to meet what He wants of us. To teach others to do less will also place a severe penalty on us.
It is not enough to choose not to kill our enemies or those whom we dislike. The dignity of man is so great that being unreconciled with your neighbor is the same as being unreconciled with God. The paradox in the spiritual life is that the one most likely to help us in prayer is our enemy or those whom we dislike. These people are messengers sent to reveal and expose those areas of our hidden self where rage and fury lurk. These messengers lead us to that place in our heart where we and our enemies are one. In sin we stand beside before the Cross and in reconciliation we are showered equally with divine love and forgiveness.
Gehenna, the local smoldering garbage dump outside of Jerusalem, is a symbol of hell. Jesus uses exaggeration to get a point across. While we are forbidden to destroy healthy organs, Jesus exaggerates the deadliness of mortal sin.
Adultery in one’s heart is a very significant term. While Jesus uses it with particular reference to two sexual sins, He is telling us that we must control our fallen instincts and tendencies to avoid the pains of hell. He demands a perfection in our behavior that is impossible to achieve unless we rely on His supernatural powers to assist us. These powers will only come if we remain in the state of grace, but do not expect the temptations to disappear. We are stuck with temptations as long as we live in this present life. Our past history of sins can make this a very difficult chore This is why we promote Catholic education to cultivate our young in virtue so they will be less inclined to fall into these traps. In this passage Jesus points out two spiritual killers – pornography and masturbation. These two sins are the seed bed for adultery in the heart.
Jesus refines the indissolubility of marriage. When a couple makes a covenant in marriage before God, it is unbreakable. Marriage is a Sacrament which places demands on us of mutual exclusive fidelity, a commitment for life and the possibility of sharing these stabilizing factors with the gift of children. In our frail human condition we need the supernatural power of God to survive the challenges of this secular world.
In a secular society the Sacrament of Marriage is being challenged. Many young people, caught in vices, easily develop a distorted view of what Marriage is. Frequently they walk away when they are challenged. Frequently children are left in confusion and fear.
While there is no sin in being divorced, there may be many sins that lead to a divorce. Divorced people can receive communion provided they be in the state of grace. Jesus says that it is adultery for divorced people to remarry. In these circumstances it is forbidden to take Holy Communion unless, with permission of the Bishop, they choose to live as brother and sister for the rest of their lives in a way that prevents scandal. Jesus points out that remarriage for lewd conduct is possible. The Greek word, porneia, means an incestuous union. This is often translated as lewd conduct. Some marriages can be found to be defective for various reasons and they can be declared invalid after a careful examination by judges on a Church tribunal. These are known as annulments.
Jesus tells us that Christians do not need to take oaths because we must always be honest. That is behind the saying of Jesus to say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. Christians are permitted to take oaths to acknowledge that they are bound by faithfulness to God to speak the truth.
Christian morality poses requirements for a life lived in Christ. They are not optional and are designed to be lived here and now. We are called to holiness, a life of struggle. This requires the supernatural means found in frequent sacramental confession and frequent reception of Holy Communion. The life lived in Christ will never be fully realized in this life, but it will be if and when we get to Heaven. In the mean time, God can give us great consolations when we realize that where we are weak, He personally steps into our lives and makes us strong. When we come to realize this, we begin to experience the joy that the world cannot give.