6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 12, 2017
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Tuesday is Valentine’s Day, a day when the world celebrates lovers.
So let’s talk about love today.
But not “love” the way the world thinks of it, but love the way it truly is:
love the way God thinks of it.
In today’s Gospel we find Jesus continuing the same Sermon on the Mount
that we’ve been reading for the last 2 Sundays.
Today Jesus is talking specifically about the commandments.
Now, many people view the commandments as just a bunch of rules,
rules that we keep under fear of going to hell, or “Gehenna” if we don’t.
This was a conception of the commandments very common in Jesus day:
especially among some of the Pharisees and Scribes,
who held a very legalistic view of the commandments,
thinking that if they could keep just the literal meaning,
then they would be saved.
But Jesus had a very different view of the commandments.
Elsewhere, in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
There are some who’d like to believe that with this one “new” commandment,
Jesus abolished the 10 commandments of the old covenant.
But to Jesus, keeping his commandment of love
is the same as keeping his father’s 10 commandments.
He says, in John 15:
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and abide in his love….”
And so, as we read today in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill the law.”
Jesus doesn’t throw out the laws the Pharisees clung to,
but instead he reinforces even “the smallest part of the letter of the law”.
But he calls us not to be shallow and depend on
a merely technical legalistic interpretation of the law,
but to go deeper and let the law encompass
all of our lives and all of our actions.
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
He calls us to keep the commandments with all of our hearts, in love.
This week we’ll be reminded of “love” everywhere we go.
So let’s think about what happens when 2 people are in love.
When two people really love each other,
when they’re in the zenith of the romance
–they don’t think in terms of minimums, but of maximums.
They don’t just think what’s the least amount of this love that I can get by with,
but they want and allow their love to seep into everything they do and think.
So they don’t want to hurt each other in any way:
and so they don’t just agree not to beat each other,
rather the very thought of inflicting even the slightest pain
–physical or emotional
And so Jesus says, if you love me and mine
–not only “Don’t kill them,”
but, as he says:
“whoever is angry with his brother
…and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
In other words, “don’t show others contempt or hatred in any way,
don’t even think about hurting the one you love, or that Christ loves.”
Also, two people in love give themselves to each other in every way they can
–they give their time, their emotions
and their physical presence to each other,
and they can’t begin to think about giving themselves
in the same way to someone else.
They don’t want to stay late at work, or to be with their friends
when they could be at home or on a date with their beloved,
This is especially seen in love of spouses,
which is so beautifully experienced
in the complete gift of their bodies to one another.
In light of this, Jesus tells us to respect the awesome meaning
of spousal love expressed in this gift.
And so he says, if you love me and mine, not only don’t commit adultery,
but also don’t even “look at [someone] with lust”
because that’s the same as
“committing adultery with [them] in your heart.”
When you love somebody you make promises to them
and there is nothing more important than keeping those promises
When you make a date, you show up;
when you promise to be at the Church at 3:00 for a wedding ceremony
you show up.
And so Jesus says, when you make a commitment in love in marriage,
you can’t put aside that commitment
by signing a piece of paper that says you’re divorced
–no court on earth can separate what you and God have joined.
You’ve given yourself and you can’t take yourself back,
and if you try to not only take yourself back,
and also try to give yourself again in a commitment
to a different person,
you don’t marry that different person, you commit adultery.
And when you fall in love, you talk, and you talk all the time.
You talk about deep secrets, profound thoughts,
and even the most silly dreams and nonsense.
And as you talk you share yourself, and you become deeper and closer
in love through trust.
You don’t lie to someone when you’re in love
–and if you do, your relationship will soon die like week old roses.
So Jesus says, if you love me and mine, not only:
“Do not take a false oath… But I say to you, ….
“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”
Lying is completely inconsistent with love.
If you want true love, keep the “rules” of love,
but not as a bunch of legalistic constructs
–don’t obey the rules like a lawyer, but like a true lover.
If you follow the commandments this way, your love will be returned to you,
and you’ll know what it means when we read:
“eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and nor has it
entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,”
On the other hand, if you don’t follow the commandments as a lover,
then you will lose the one you love above all others
–you will lose God.
And those of you who have loved deeply and lost their beloved,
or come close to losing them,
you know that the loss of your beloved
can be more painful than the burning of the hottest fire,
and more confining and hopeless
than the chains of the darkest prison.
And so Christ says, if you do not follow the commandments with love,
“you will be thrown into prison.”
AND “[You] will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”
When we leave here today we’ll be surrounded by Valentine’s Day,
as the world celebrates its understanding of love.
But the world’s notion of love is very radically different
from the love of God, of Jesus.
Most of us are at least effected by the world’s notion of love in important ways.
We find it in our schools, in the media, in entertainment.
We hear it from our teachers, from our political leaders,
and even, unfortunately, from our clergy.
St. Paul warns us in today’s second reading
that we are not to conform to this false worldly notion:
“We speak…not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age…
Rather, we speak God’s wisdom.”
The worlds’ wisdom tells us that our moral norms
must constantly be changed and adapted
to be modern, up-to date, relative or relevant
But in the Gospel, Christ gives us very specific, clear and unchanging norms,
as do Sts. Paul and Peter and John elsewhere in the New Testament,
using hard words like “unless you do this you will not enter the Kingdom”
and “Anything more is from the evil one.”
As St. Paul tells us today:
“God’s wisdom [is] mysterious, hidden,
which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,
and which none of the rulers of this age knew.”
[The rulers in governments, or Hollywood, or Wall Street, or in the media.]
Today, Scripture tells us:
“If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you;
if you trust in God, you too shall live”
On Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, a day when the world looks for love,
and places before us its false and shallow notion of love,
let us pray that we may choose to follow the way of true love,
in the fullness of the law of love of Christ.
Let us follow the commandments not as lawyers, but as lovers.
And let us love as the great and perfect lover shows us,
not with fear of loosing our beloved,
but in the joy of our Beloved’s promise to his bride, and to each of us:
“eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and nor has it entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,”