― Pope Francis
There will be an in-pew collection for Annual Ministry Appeal next Sunday, February 23rd. The AMA provides valuable funding for key Diocesan ministry offices as they work to support our parishes and schools. In some cases these ministries provide direct ministry that no one parish could accomplish alone(i.e Restorative Justice and Tribunal) Some other ministries funded in part by AMA are: Campus Newman Centers, Child and Youth Protection, Clergy Formation, Communication, Catholic Schools, Diaconate and Diaconate Formation, Ecumenical and interreligious Affairs, Hispanic Ministry, Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa, Marriage and Family, Native American Ministry, Religious Education, Respect life, Seminarians, Vocations and Youth Camps.
Very frequently we make a “rolling stop” at a stop sign because there is no traffic or pedestrian in front of us. To our surprise the flashing red siren pulls us over and then we try to defend our actions: “Oh I was following the spirit of the law.” If your Lady Luck is with you then you may be spared. Does that ring a bell?
Jesus was seen breaking many customs, traditions and laws of his time. For example, He once healed a man of a withered hand on a Sabbath day. He and His disciples ate food without ritually cleaning their hands. He supported his disciples when they did not fast. Consequently. everyone felt Jesus was a new spiritual leader with a new teaching different from the traditional one. To them Jesus addresses today’s Gospel passage: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.” And He further tries to remove any misconceptions by elaborating on the spirit of the law and answering the profound questions: Whom does the law ultimately serve?, Why does it exist? and What are its benefits? There are two important words “righteousness” and “judgement” in today’s passage.
Righteousness is not legalism; it can be translated as justice, uprightness, virtue, perfection. St. Matthew is constantly using this word in his gospel conveying the deeper meaning. It is not conformity to law, but a response to the plan of God. It appeals to your conscience. Judgement ends at the letter of the law but righteousness goes deeper and further.
Jesus is addressing His Gospel to the scribes and pharisees who were very fixated on the letter of the law. Jesus is turning the Jewish law and the prophets upside down. So He is making some statements to enable people to more clearly see the difference between judgement and righteousness. The letter of the law stated ”Thou shall not commit adultery” and the law in its justice demanded death as a penalty. But Jesus is interested in the health of the human heart and soul, righteousness and redemption. He says “If you look at a person with lust you have already committed adultery.Clearly stating that before there is action there is the thought in the mind. Our thoughts are what we must focus on to achieve holiness and virtue. In this way Jesus intends that we should avoid the evil actions that bring pain and suffering to ourselves and others.
Sometime ago I had watched a Bollywood movie where a politician goes ‘scot free’ because the victim of rape couldn’t provide proof and testimony in the court. The judgement is “not guilty” but the ultimate question that Jesus would ask is: “Does that make the perpetrator of this vile act a righteous person?”
To be part of the kingdom of God, your righteousness has to go beyond that of the scribes and pharisees, to go beyond the security of what the law will allow to a deeper discernment of the plan of God; to go beyond the mere avoidance of gross crimes like murder, adultery and the breaking of oaths to a deeper life of freedom from anger, lust and deceit.
Embrace the heart of Jesus and make your heart like His. God bless.
- Fr. Bernard
St. Ignatius of Loyola developed The Spiritual Exercises to provide the opportunity to come to a deeper “interior knowledge of Our Lord who became human for me, that I may love him more intensely and follow him more closely.” Through contemplation of Jesus in his human life, this process beckons one to a deeper relationship with Jesus and a better sense of direction for one’s life and what God desires. Beginning this Lent and given over a period of eight weeks, this introduction to The Spiritual Exercises provides different prayer forms and a weekly faith-sharing meeting. An open heart with commitment to daily prayer and weekly gatherings is essential, and if possible, a $25 donation to cover books and expenses would be appreciated. Space is limited. For more information, please contact Ann Lynch 707-443-6741.
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You can download a pdf of the schedule by clicking here or by clicking on the link below.