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Displaying items by tag: Celebrating At Home

Tuesday, 04 April 2023 01:10

Celebrating At Home - Good Friday

Love revealed in the passion
(John 18:1 - 19:42)

The Passion of Jesus according to John

Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest’s palace, but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kedron valley. There was a garden there, and he went into it with his disciples. Judas the traitor knew the place well, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, and he brought the cohort to this place together with a detachment of guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons. Knowing everything that was going to happen to him, Jesus then came forward and said, ‘Who are you looking for?’ They answered, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said, ‘I am he.’ Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. When Jesus said, ‘I am he’, they moved back and fell to the ground. He asked them a second time, ‘Who are you looking for?’ They said, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ Jesus replied, ‘I have told you that I am he. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.’ This was to fulfil the words he had spoken: ‘Not one of those you gave me have I lost’.

Simon Peter, who carried a sword, drew it and wounded the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’

Pause for quiet reflection

The cohort and its captain and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him. They took him first to Annas, because Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had suggested to the Jews, ‘It is better for one man to die for the people’. 

Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest’s palace, but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who was keeping the door and brought Peter in. The maid on duty at the door said to Peter, ‘Aren’t you another of that man’s disciples?’ He answered, ‘I am not.’ Now it was cold, and the servants and guards had lit a charcoal fire and were standing there warming themselves; so Peter stood there too, warming himself with the others. 

The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly for all the world to hear; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the Jews meet together: I have said nothing in secret.
But why ask me? Ask my hearers what I taught: they know what I said.’ At these words, one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying, ‘Is that the way to answer the high priest?’ Jesus replied, ‘If there is something wrong in what I said, point it out; but if there is no offense in it, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas, the high priest.

As Simon Peter stood there warming himself, someone said to him, ‘Aren’t you another of his disciples?’ He denied it saying, ‘I am not.’ One of the high priest’s servants, a relation of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, ‘Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it; and at once a cock crew.

Pause for quiet reflection

They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves or they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover. So Pilate came outside to them and said, ‘What charge do you bring against this man?’ They replied, ‘If he were not a criminal, we should not be handing him over to you.’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law.’ The Jews answered, ‘We are not allowed to put a man to death.’ This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die. So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him, and asked, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent me being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ Pilate said, ‘So you are a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is you who say it. Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this; to bear witness to the truth, and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’ Pilate said, ‘Truth? What is that?’ And with that he went out again to the Jews and said, ‘I find no case against him. But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release the king of the Jews?’ At this they shouted, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas.’ Barabbas was a brigand.

Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him and saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ and they slapped him in the face. 

Pause for quiet reflection

Pilate came outside and said to them, ‘Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case.’ Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said, ‘Here is the man.’ When they saw him the chief priests and the guards shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him: I can find no case against him.’ The Jews replied, ‘We have a Law, and according to the Law he ought to die, because he has claimed to be the son of God.’ When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased. Re-entering the Praetorium, he said to Jesus, ‘Where do you come from?’ But Jesus made no answer. Pilate then said to him, ‘Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?’ Jesus replied, ‘You would have no power over me if it had not been given you from above; that is why the one who handed me over to you has the greater guilt.’

From that moment Pilate was anxious to set him free, but the Jews shouted, ‘If you set him free you are no friend of Caesar’s; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.’ Hearing these words, Pilate had Jesus brought out, and seated himself on the chair of judgement at a place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha. It was Passover Preparation Day, about the sixth hour. Pilate said to the Jews, ‘Here is your king.’ They said, ‘Take him away, take him away. Crucify him!’ Pilate said, ‘Do you want me to crucify your king?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king except Caesar.’ So in the end Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Pause for quiet reflection

They then took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out of the city to the place of the skull, or, as it was called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side with Jesus in the middle. Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: ‘Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews’. This notice was read by many of the Jews, because the place where Jesus was crucified was not far from the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate, ‘You should not write ‘King of the Jews’, but ‘This man said: I am King of the Jews’. Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’

When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another, ‘Instead of tearing it, let’s throw dice to decide who is to have it.’ In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled: They shared out my clothing among them. They cast lots for my clothes. This is exactly what the soldiers did. 

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed, and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, ‘It is accomplished’; and bowing his head he gave up the spirit. 

Pause for quiet reflection

It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the Sabbath - since the Sabbath was a day of special solemnity - the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then the other. When they came to Jesus, they found that he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it - trustworthy evidence, and he knows he speaks the truth - and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture: Not one bone of his will be broken, and again, in another place scripture says: They will look on the one whom they have pierced.

After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus though a secret one because he was afraid of the Jews asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away. Nicodemus came as well - the same one who had first come to Jesus at night-time and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was near at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Pause for quiet reflection.

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Tuesday, 04 April 2023 00:30

Celebrating At Home - Holy Thursday

Washing feet, sharing bread and wine:
Love poured out in service

On this night we recall Jesus’ commandment to love one another, his washing of the disciples’ feet and the breaking of the bread of his own life, not just at table, but also on the altar of the Cross, for the healing and nourishment of the world.

The liturgy on Holy Thursday is a meditation on the essential connection between the Eucharist and Christian love expressed in serving one another. Christ is not only present in the Eucharist but also in the deeds of loving kindness offered to others through us.

We are the ones who make ‘real’ the presence of Jesus in every smile, kind word and loving action.

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Love revealed
(Matthew 27:11-54)

The Passion of Jesus according to Matthew

Matthew presents the passion, not as a gruesome act, but as the means of salvation. The cross is part of God’s plan, not a tragic mistake.

Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, the governor, who asked him: ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’. But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders he refused to answer them. So Pilate said to him: ‘Do you hear how many charges they have brought against you?’ But to the governor’s amazement Jesus offered no reply to any of the charges.

At festival time it was the governor’s practice to release a prisoner for the people, anyone they chose. Now there was at that time a notorious prisoner whose name was Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate said to them: ‘Which do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’

The chief priests and the elders had persuaded the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus. So when Pilate asked them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’, they said, ‘Barabbas’. ‘In that case what am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all shouted, ‘Let him be crucified!’ ‘But why? What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!’

Then Pilate saw that he was making no impression.

In fact a riot was imminent. So he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood.’ And the people shouted, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ Then Pilate released Barabbas and ordered Jesus to be scourged and then handed over to be crucified.

The Governor’s soldiers took Jesus with them into the Praetorium and collected the whole cohort round him. They stripped him and made him wear a scarlet cloak, and having twisted some thorns into a crown they put this on his head and placed a reed in his right hand. To make fun of him, they knelt to him saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head with it. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the cloak and dressed him in his own clothes and led him away to crucify him.

On their way out, they came across a man from Cyrene, Simon by name, and enlisted him to carry his cross. When they had reached a place called Golgotha, that is, the place of the skull, they gave him wine to drink mixed with gall, which he tasted but refused to drink. When they had finished crucifying him, they shared out his clothing by casting lots, and then sat down and stayed there keeping guard over him.

Above his head was placed the charge against him: it read ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews’. At the same time, two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself! If you are God’s son, come down from the cross!’

The chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him in the same way. ‘He saved others, he cannot save himself. He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe him. He put his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants to. For he did say, “I am the son of God”.’

Even the robbers who were crucified with him taunted him in the same way.

From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me!’

When some of those who stood there heard this, they said, ‘The man is calling on Elijah,’ and one of them quickly ran to get a sponge which he dipped in vinegar and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. ‘Wait!’ said the rest of them ‘and see if Elijah will come to save him’. But Jesus again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.

[All pause for a moment] 

At that, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy people rose from the dead, and these, after his resurrection, came out of the tombs, entered the Holy City and appeared to a number of people.

Meanwhile the centurion, together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said, ‘In truth this was a son of God’.

Quiet time for reflection

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Friday, 24 March 2023 11:12

Celebrating At Home - 5th Sunday in Lent

Let him go free
(John 11:1-45)

The final of the three Great Gospels of Lent is ours today - a Gospel story of life and freedom. Like the gospels of the last two Sundays, the dramatic story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead is a story of love, faith and belief.

There are three different groups of believers in the story: those who believe that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death (Jesus is already known to be a healer); those who came to believe in him because they see Lazarus rise, and those, like Martha, who believe in Jesus even though Lazarus died.

In this Gospel Jesus proclaims himself ‘the resurrection and the life’. We see him deeply moved by the death of his friend. We find him in earnest prayer with God.
We see him full of strength as he commands Lazarus to come out of the tomb.

One thing that is rarely commented on about this story is the image of love that pervades it. Jesus has treated the Samaritan woman with dignity, respect, gentleness and love, and reached out in love to heal the blind man without being asked. In this story his love for Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and the grief he feels because of that love, are very clearly seen.

For me, it brings together once again the connection between faith and love. If John intended this story to reassure his community (those who have faith in Jesus) then he makes clear that they are also loved by Jesus, and suggests in a certain manner Jesus, too, weeps when harm (illness and death) come to his friends (believers). The ultimate reassurance is that this loving, faith-filled relationship we have with Jesus not only sustains us in life but also sees us through the dark moments of suffering and death – ultimately to life beyond the restrictions (binding cloths) we find in this world. Finally, we will be free.

For me, the most powerful words in the Gospel are: Unbind him, let him go free.

Freedom is one of the deepest aspirations of the human heart. We long to be free – from illness, worry, fear, (especially at the moment) the expectations of others, guilt, our faults and so on. The ultimate freedom is freedom from eternal death.

We know we can be physically alive and spiritually dead through envy, greed, fear, hatred. We know we can bring death to others through lies, gossip, meanness, cruelty, withholding forgiveness and so on.
By living the life of Christ we bring life, love and freedom to ourselves and each other. 

Quiet time for reflection

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Friday, 17 March 2023 09:11

Celebrating At Home - 4th Sunday in Lent

Journey into the light
(John 9:1-41)

In this Sunday’s Gospel we accompany the man who was born blind on his journey into the light. The first thing we read in the full version of this Gospel is that Jesus announces that the man is sinless – he has been born blind so that God’s glory can be seen at work in him. Then Jesus gives the blind man sight. Notice that the man didn’t ask to be healed – this is Jesus’ initiative, taking the first step and reaching out in love.
That’s how Jesus approaches us, too.

When the man returns home there is no rejoicing or welcome from his neighbours and friends. Instead, he is greeted with many questions and much suspicion. They seem blind to what has happened to the man.
These same neighbours and friends march the man off to the religious authorities to see what they make of the situation. But they, too, greet the man with many questions and great suspicion and finally drive him away. They, too, are blind to the work of God both in the man and in Jesus who cured him.

Jesus seeks the man out and asks if he believes. The man asks in whom he should believe. Jesus answers, ‘in me’. The man, who now sees clearly who Jesus is, believes and worships.

The man’s whole world has been totally transformed from total darkness into light through the loving action of Jesus. Bit by bit throughout the reading the man has gradually come to realise who Jesus is. At first Jesus is simply ‘a man’, then ‘a prophet’, then ‘Son of Man’ and finally, ‘Lord’.

We, too, can be blind to the many ways God is present in our lives and in those around us. It can take some time on our journey of faith to realise just who Jesus is and to allow our lives to be filled with Light.

The candles we use in our churches remind us of the vitality and life of Christ which has been entrusted to us. With our minds lit and our hearts warmed by the Spirit of Christ we, too, develop true insight and as God’s heart begins to beat within our own, we become light and warmth for each other.

May the light of Christ burn strongly within us!

Quiet time for reflection

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Friday, 10 March 2023 08:34

Celebrating At Home - 3rd Sunday in Lent

Come and drink
(John 4:5-16, 19-26, 39-42)

Last Sunday the Gospel of the Transfiguration completed the ‘little parable’ which begins Lent. The Gospels of the first two Sundays describe what Lent is about and what Christian life is about: a constant journey from temptation and doubt to transfiguration and faith; a journey away from allowing ourselves to be tempted to evil and towards allowing ourselves to be tempted to good by the action of God’s Holy Spirit within us.

The Gospels of the next three Sunday make clear that the Way from temptation to transfiguration is in and through Jesus Christ who is Living Water, Light and Life for the would-be disciple. They are three great stories from John about responding in faith:

• The Woman at the Well – coming to faith despite barriers, personal history, differences of religious tradition, circumstances of life.
• The Man Born Blind – Faith grows amidst all sorts of trials and the doubt of others.

• The Raising of Lazarus – Faith tested by the ultimate: death.

The first of the three ‘great Gospels’ of Lent is ours this weekend: the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.

The ground-work for the Gospel is laid in the first reading from Exodus. The people are thirsty, God gives them water even though they grumble against him and ‘put him to the test’.

From the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman we might gather that faith comes through personal encounter with Jesus who offers us the living water of his Spirit. Jesus offers us his spirit in spite of all kinds of barriers, our personal history or circumstances and our often stubborn reluctance. Faith is a journey – it takes time to understand what is being offered and who is offering it. Some barriers about religion or religious practice need to be transcended to enter fully into faith which does not depend on cultic rituals. Faith makes us into missionaries, evangelists, proclaimers of Good News.

Water is a powerful symbol of life. You can last many days without food, but only a few without water. In our Christian tradition water is a strong symbol of the life of God which sustains us and brings our hearts to life. That is why we use it in Baptism and to bless objects and ourselves. The living water Jesus promises is his Spirit. A spirit which heals and transforms; which revels in the experience of God’s love and mercy; which cannot help but proclaim God’s goodness.

Our fresh encounter with the spirit of Christ this Lent heals and transforms us, and makes us into a “living gospel for all to hear”.

Quiet time for reflection

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Thursday, 02 March 2023 15:09

Celebrating At Home - 2nd Sunday in Lent

Transfiguration
(Matthew 17:1-9)

This Sunday’s Gospel of the Transfiguration completes the ‘little parable’ formed by the Gospels of the first two Sundays of Lent.

These Gospels tell us what Lent is about and what Christian life is about: a journey from temptation and doubt to transfiguration and faith. A journey away from allowing ourselves to be tempted to evil, and towards allowing ourselves to be tempted to good by the action of God’s Holy Spirit within us.

As the ‘Chosen One’ Jesus will let God’s glory be fully seen in the resurrection. On the one hand, this Gospel looks forward to the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. On the other, it invites us to reflect on our journey from temptation to transfiguration.

The journey Jesus undertakes does not end in death, but in life. Through prayer we remain in contact with the heart of God which allows God’s love to transform and transfigure us and to ‘burst forth’ in goodness.

That’s how we allow the glory of God to be seen in us and through us.

Transfiguration means to be shot-through with the presence of God. Being transfigured is about allowing the presence of God to completely transform us; it’s a revolution of mind and heart driven by God’s Spirit and enabled by our open heartedness.

Our life as Christians is about being transfigured by the Spirit of God so that God is seen in, and experienced through, us.

It takes faith and perseverance to dare to allow ourselves to be tempted by the passion, hope and vision of God rather than our own desires and wants. It takes great faith to trust in God’s word to us. But if we do, the living word of the Chosen One forms in us the heart of God.

Quiet time for reflection

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Thursday, 23 February 2023 12:53

Celebrating At Home - 1st Sunday in Lent

Temptation to transfiguration
(Matthew 4:1-11)

Our great Lenten journey has begun. It’s a journey which begins in ash and ends in water. Fire is a profound part of our experience. We know its power to destroy, blacken and reduce to ash.

We know that evil can do the same - destroy our wholeness of spirit, blacken our lives and reduce the beauty of human life to so much dust.

We begin Lent in the ash of acknowledging our own part in harbouring, creating and doing evil - those places in our hearts where the fire of anger, bitterness, selfishness or narrowness of mind and heart has left nothing but cold ash.

The ash is a reminder that our true life is not found in mortal things which eventually turn to dust, but in eternal things. We also know that out of ash new life can bud, grow strong, bloom into fullness - that’s the Easter miracle.

As always, the Gospels of the first two Sundays in Lent provide a road map for our Lenten journey from temptation (this Sunday) to transfiguration (next Sunday).

We allow ourselves to be tempted out of the ash of selfishness and narrowness of heart and into a life of open-hearted goodness. We celebrate God’s graciousness to us by sharing what we have with those in need whether it be food, wealth, time, love, friendship or compassion. That’s what it means to ‘repent and believe the Good News’.

In these days when we are so conscious of the impact of human life on God’s creation, perhaps we could think about some permanent fasting from our excessive consumption of power, food and petrol in order to allow our earth to heal, to breathe and to continue to be a source of nourishment and life for the whole human family.

Quiet time for reflection

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Thursday, 16 February 2023 09:03

Celebrating At Home - 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Going the extra mile
(Matthew 5:38-48)

Vengeance, retaliation and violence seem part and parcel of the human experience. When we are hurt our first instinct is often to strike back, to take revenge on the one who hurt us - ‘pay back’, as we call it.

That’s how cycles of violence get started. These cycles can continue, between families for example, for generations, enduring long after the original incident has been forgotten.

In continuing his Sermon on the Mount in today’s Gospel, Jesus calls his disciples to a new way of handling violence and unjust treatment - not with revenge and retaliation, but with open-hearted generosity and forgiveness.

Jesus’ teaching must have sounded like the ravings of a mad man to his hearers. Even for us today that teaching can be ‘hard to swallow’. Is Jesus seriously asking us to offer the other cheek to the one who strikes us, to suffer double the injury? If someone wants our shirt, do we have to give them our coat as well? If someone forces us to go one mile, do we really have to go two miles with them? Love your enemies?

Pray for those who persecute you? Seriously?

The challenge in Jesus’ words is for the disciples to always act in our dealings with one another as God would act. That is how we can break the cycles of violence which would otherwise entrap us.

Jesus calls his disciples to a more abundant righteousness even when they are unjustly treated. He takes traditional interpretations of the ancient biblical teachings and corrects and extends them in a more generous interpretation.

Virtue and righteousness are not about looking good on the outside, fulfilling the ‘letter of the Law’. They are about being good on the inside and acting for the good of others, allowing God’s heart to reign within our own. That’s what brings us into right relationship with God and neighbour.

True Christian virtue always goes beyond merely what is required. It is always willing to ‘go the extra mile’ in tolerance, love, forgiveness and mercy. It mirrors the excessive generosity of God.

The perfection of true holiness is found in acting towards others, including our enemies, as God acts towards us all.

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Friday, 10 February 2023 15:03

Celebrating At Home - 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Excessive generosity
(Matthew 5:17-37)

In the Jewish tradition, guidance about how to be at rights with God and neighbour is found in the Torah, the teaching contained in the fi rst fi ve books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). 

It is especially important for St Matthew, writing his Gospel for Jewish believers, to show that Jesus is not opposed to Jewish teachings and traditions. He has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to complete or fulfi l them.

But for Jesus it is not enough to follow these teachings only in external actions. The path that Jesus is calling his disciples to is a path of thorough-going transformation from within.
The short version of this Sunday’s Gospel begins with, ‘I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.’ Those listening to Jesus would have been deeply shocked by these words. The scribes and Pharisees were considered the righteous ones – those who stood most chance of getting into heaven. They were expert practitioners of the Law. But Jesus is calling his disciples to a more abundant righteousness. He takes traditional interpretations of biblical teachings and corrects and extends them in a more generous interpretation.

A number of examples in today’s Gospel reading serve to make the point. As always, Jesus’ words go to the heart and from there address issue. For example: it is not enough to be able to say, ‘I have kept the commandment not to kill’. What about the anger in your heart that gives rise to a whole raft of insults, bitterness and injury against another person?

Virtue and righteousness are about being in right relationship with God and others. It is not about looking good on the outside, fulfi lling the ‘letter of the Law’, but about being good on the inside; having the right attitude of heart so as to be in right relationship with God and neighbour. Such an attitude of heart will manifest itself in generous life-giving actions that make the world safe for others.

True Christian virtue always goes beyond merely what is required and always mirrors the excessive generosity of God.

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