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Contents: Volume 2:

6th Sunday of Ordered Time
 - February 12, 2023
- year A








1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Dennis Keller

3. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

4. -- (Your reflection can be here!)






Sun. 6 A 2023

The same thing happens to me every time our first reading from the Book of Sirach comes up in the liturgical cycle. I always have to stop after the third word... "If you choose." My mind goes straight to "If I had... or if I hadn't chosen..." It is much like a mini-inventory of the good choices and the not so good ones I have made. I think we all second guess ourselves sometimes, often in hindsight.

The power of personal choice, however, remains unmistakable! Everything in life is a choice in one way or another. God offers us to choose water or fire, namely life or death. Would that it were so easy! I can anticipate my Legal Eagle teenage granddaughter thinking, maybe even aloud : "well, water can flood and fire can warm, hmm."

Ah, perfect timing for "the talk" about discernment! It always amazes me how much I take away from her insightful comments and arguments. Evil usually appears as looking good. How does one choose the better way?

Our second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians tells us that the Spirit scrutinizes everything. That suggests that praying will help one understand the mysteries and wisdom of God, even if they are hidden. Meditating on Scripture and sharing one's thoughts with others who do is also a turn in the right direction.

Jesus himself gives us more insight in the long Gospel selection according to Matthew. Jesus came to fulfill the law of his time and he did so by trying to show its intent rather than just adhering to its literal words. Some of the examples are hot button topic these days, for sure. Whatever our personal preference on any of those, it is necessary to find the way to get ourselves closer to the underlying principle it fosters. Again, not easy. I think that is why we are still grappling with some of these situations even to this day.

This wonderful granddaughter of mine does have her moments! Here I thought I was in pretty good shape, at my age, in the wisdom department ...and then she, at 14, speaks! I have discovered that the most essential key to acting more wisely is openness to hear and then wrestle with uncomfortable ideas, then or later, knowing that ultimately, God is Truth. I do have enough wisdom to choose "later" quite often these days so I can get my own act more together!


Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity





Sixth Sunday in Ordered Time February 12, 2023

Sirach 15:15-20; Responsorial Psalm 119;
1st Corinthians 2:6-10; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 11:25; Matthew 5:17-37

Following two Sundays of discipleship training we come to the discipleship easiest to comprehend. It is about compliance, about rules and regulations. The focus appears to be on will-power. That’s what it seems like. The reading from Sirach sets the theme very clearly. "If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you: if you trust in God you shall live. …. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him." That is a clear statement about will-power, choice. There seems to be nothing about using our heads to think, to discover meaning, nothing about growing spiritually, nothing about forming our personal characters. Just show me the rules, give me the commandments, let me know what behavior is expected and I’ll choose life. And when I mess up – and I most certainly will because there are strong enticements that beckon us as did the Sirens in the Ulysses story – I have available to me a couple of sacraments. We can approach God’s mercy seat in confession and, in the moments before our passing from this world, we have available to us an anointing and Apostolic Blessing that gets into right relationship with our Creator. In the early stages of spiritual life that seems pretty much how it ought to be for us. Stick to the letter of the law and we’ll be saved from an eternity of damnation.

Unfortunately, just keeping an eye on measures of behavior is an endless cycle. For awhile it’s okay – like during adolescence. That’s when we need guard rails to keep from falling into in the ditch. In adulthood we get tired of trying and allow sin a place in our hearts. It’s like the laws don’t have the power to keep us growing.

Confusion comes in with Jesus continuing educating his disciples. Of course, murder is contrary to the commandments. But Jesus pushes the envelope. He teaches even anger is wrong. Calling your brother bad names is wrong. Anything that harms a person’s standing in the community or thinking harm to that person is wrong. Jesus is loading up the commandments with matters of intention, movements of the heart. This is much more than mere compliance. This is commandments on the steroid of love.

Then that most favorite of all commandments about adultery. Seems sins of sexuality carry a special guilt and condemnation. Humans are preoccupied with sex. Jesus pushes the envelope again: lustful language, lewd remarks, wishful thinking, all these are adultery. Again, Jesus looks into the intention, the allowance of irreverence and disrespect toward another person as sinful and thus harmful to a person’s spiritual life, detrimental to a person’s spirit and living. Mere following the letter of the law isn’t what Jesus expects of his disciples. Here is a much farther reaching on thoughts and deeds. Here Jesus is speaking of the contents of our intentions, the very movements of our hearts that we allow and even exercise. In that allowance and exercise we strengthen a false use and abuse of God’s creation. That disrespect, that irreverence harm us even if we remain compliant to the commandments in what we do.

Jesus speaks with authority. The Pharisees, the Scribes would present their arguments by prefacing their instruction with "it is written." Jesus taught using his own authority. The pharisees and the Scribes were very careful in their teaching. Not working on the Sabbath was one of their favorite studies. The objects of their thinking was to certify what was work and what was allowable on the Sabbath. As an example, writing is considered to be work. How much writing was allowable before writing violated the Sabbath? The thoughts of the Scribes and the Pharisees were overly complex and difficult to follow. Writing in their mode of spirituality had to be defined. The definition is all about detail and lacks complete the spirit of respecting and revering God’s Sabbath of rest. "He who writes two letters of the alphabet with his right or with his left hand, whether of one kind or two kinds, if they are written with different inks or in different languages is guilty." And it goes further. Such detail is not easy to be remembered, especially when there are concerns about earning a living, educating children, the situation of governance, etc. A commitment to abide by the law became burdensome and impossible for the majority of people. This was the enhanced Law of Moses taught by the Scribes and the Pharisees. This was not the law of Moses Jesus taught. That adjusted law was promulgated by the insistence of men seeking their own importance.

The Law of Moses is not lost in Jesus teaching and practice. Jesus denies the frills and exaggerations, the application by studious persons that make the Law irrelevant. The Law upon which Jesus builds his church is summed up in one of two words: that law demands respect and reverence. The commandments present humanity with fundamental principles: respect/reverence for God and for God’s name, and for God’s day in each week. These principles insist on respect/reverence for parents, for property of others, for personalities of others, for truth, for the good name of others. The principles include respect and reverence for ourselves so that what are charge of our persons. Thus, we are free of the temptations and enticements of the way of the world. We avoid ceding self-mastery and self freedom to those with evil intention.

The commandments, the Law of Moses is about right relationships. Violating right relationships brings persons to mortgaging freedom to forces robbing us of peace, of truth, of the way of the Christ. In the teaching this Sunday, Jesus focuses on the most common of evil masters seeking to steal our freedom and happiness. The first is anger. Don’t allow it to rule you! Then he speaks of lust. That most powerful of urges in humanity is intimacy. Intimacy leads us to the birth of another human being – but also to bonding woman and man into one body. That bonding is a manifestation of the intensity of the bond among the Persons of the Trinity. Yet, the man or woman who surrender freedom to lusting after another ultimately loses mastery of their own lives. Jesus speaks of the dissolution of the bond between man and woman. That divorce brought on by lusting for intimacy with another, is adultery. Truth is critically important. Giving an oath for the follower of Jesus is irrelevant. Hiding behind lies, fabrications, three second sound bites meant to mislead damages the human spirit. Let yes be yes and no be no, all lacking in subterfuge.

The commandments are principles. It is up to each woman and man to apply those principles, those principles that require respect for self, for others, and for all of creation. That respect becomes more than a passive reaction to what is self, spouses, others, creation, and ultimately God. As life’s experiences stack up, respect becomes a more active reverence and an appreciation for self, for others, for creation, and, thusly, God, those three persons united in reverence and held in totally uncompromising unity by Love.

The way of the world build on violence, a manifestation of anger. Consider the offerings of entertainment. Violence is advanced by technological wizardry to a compelling level. We find ourselves wishing for victory for the "good guys and gals" ignoring the awful slaughter and blood-letting. Consider entertainment and advertising. The more scantily clad are actors, the more attention these entertainers and advertisers achieve. Think of our social and political environment. Lies, fabrications, and spin gain credibility by way of repetition. If a reality is tied to the incipient victimhood of persons. A consistent repetition captures persons. Falsehood is thought to be truth and the captured are swayed into action, often violent action with a total disregard and respect for what is true. The resulting condition is that we lose the freedom with which the Creator endowed each and every person. Respect for self, for each other, for institutions meant to protect and encourage growth are destroyed. Peace and happiness are victims on the altar sacrificed to power, wealth, influence. Chaos, hatred, falsehoods mimicking truth, violence and lack of respect for persons stolen by lust – these are the thieves of character and the growth of our spirits. Jesus speaks of his mission as: "I came that you may have life and have it in abundance."

Dennis Keller





Year A: 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"If your eye should cause you to sin, pluck it out."

Do you happen to know any professional con men?

I don’t just mean ordained ministers of religion who attempt of a Sunday morning and with varying degrees of success to put before the congregations images of righteous upstanding faithful Christian living which are often difficult of recognition to their families, friends and religious communities, more familiar with their weekday appearances.

The true professionals regard those rather snootily as at best gifted amateurs. No, the true professionals are a rare and exclusive breed, rather like neurologists or Chihuahuas who guard their professional boundaries jealously and do not take well to interlopers on their professional turf.

Well, one of the nice things about saying masses in prisons is that I get to meet a remarkable range of people I would never otherwise meet and experience the full range of their extraordinary skills. (I will long remember one mass I celebrated in which the Reader was in for fraud, the Sacristan for supplying Class A substances and both of the Eucharistic Ministers had convictions for murder by poisoning, but that’s another story.)

But one of the most remarkable is that of a man whose words I have never believed. He is a lovely man, gentle, refined, humorous, well-spoken in many languages, quietly respectful to authority, mild and wise in administration, careful and meticulous in his work and gentle in the exercise of his own authority. He is of course a professional conman and, when I met him, he had just been put in charge of the prison kitchens.

Although he had no previous experience of catering, he ran those kitchens excellently, better than any managing director I have met before or since. And, as I got to know him better, he began to tell me things about himself. All the good that he had done in his life, all people he had helped, all the people he had served and made a difference for, thinking only of their needs and never of himself. And he told me about other people who had caused him to suffer – people apparently motivated solely by the malign determination to do him wrong. People had calumnised him, called him names he had never heard in the Bible, laid false accusations against him, when all the time, he was a simple, honest man attempting to make his way in the world according to the light of Christ.

Of course, I put up with just about as much of this nonsense as I could. That is part of what it is to be a prison chaplain. It transpired that the allegation for which he was being held on remand was one of fraud. The sum involved was a matter of some dispute – somewhere between £40 million and £170 million – as the prosecuting counsel dryly put it, both quite large sums of other people’s money. Our hero, naturally denied all charges against him, claiming that – well, I forget the precise details of his defense, but it was along the lines of: he never had the money, the allegation was fraudulent, or it all been stolen by two big boys who had just run away. Although he constantly protested his innocence, I could not help but feel that the court would probably take a different view.

So, it was a surprise to me when he was acquitted on all charges and discharged without a stain upon his character. While, naturally rejoicing in the release of one of my sheep from wicked and baseless charges and the vindication of his innocence, I could not help but feel that it would not be long before other quite large sums of other people’s money found themselves missing. But, where the courts have spoken, it is not for humble prison chaplains to demur.

So I was not at all surprised when I received a letter from him, written from his new cell in a similar establishment in a remote part of Scotland. I naturally assumed that another of his little schemes had gone unaccountably awry. But, on reading the letter, I discovered that this was a different kind of cell, one in a monastery. He wrote to me to tell me of the change that he felt had taken place in his life in his time alone, in the prison cell. Never having been in prison in this country before, he had read about the British prison system and how it had been designed to give prisoners an experience of solitude and silence in which to contemplate the world and their own place within it. And it had caused him to reflect upon his life as a conman. He described it as a kind of addiction – when you know the one thing in life that you are really good at is lying, deceiving other people, influencing them towards your own ends, it simply seems like the most natural thing in the world to be doing. When the "fluence" is upon you, when you are "in the zone", when you can make anyone believe almost anything you want, there is not a feeling like it in the world. It is very, very moreish. Like those last few squares of chocolate calling to you from the fridge, it becomes almost irresistible. And that, he had found, had led him deeper and deeper into the morass of untruth and finally, when even his lies ran out, into prison.

And, having spent some time alone in reflection, he had realized that this life was not enough. And so he had decided to live remainder of his life in a different way and in a different place. As he put it, "Where there is no money, I cannot be a fraud. Where there are no words, I cannot be a liar. Where I am alone with God, I cannot be a deceiver. Believe it or not, Father, (and I will understand if you find it hard to believe) I hope to become an honest man."

Let us pray that each and every one of us may find some place in the world where we can be honest women and men; where we can be simply ourselves; where we can simply be the people God made us to be.

Paul O'Reilly SJ <>





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