If we are honest with ourselves we too face the same temptations that Jesus did in the desert. Self gratification rears its ugly head in many circumstances. Discipline is necessary if we are to avoid those shortcut behaviors that provide at best short term satisfaction but not long term renewal. How often have we dreamt about making a mighty splash in our seemingly routine world. It can be hard to believe that living the life we are living, as mundane as it seems, can serve God and others just as well. What about the temptation of having it all? We want so very much to fill up the empty hole within us and so we pursue a materialistic way of life. It is only that which comes from God that gives us what we truly need to be blended and happy. May this Lenten season fill each of us with hope and joy.
As we prepare to begin the holy season of Lent this Wednesday many of us are pondering about how we are to keep it. Might I suggest that we take our 2020 parish theme “Live a Legacy of Love” and run with it. In this Sunday’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount Jesus exhorts us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father”...Lent provides a time for us to work on relationships, to make that call or write that letter that we have put off because of our disgruntled feelings toward the other. When we pray for another, hopefully, our heart begins to soften toward him or her. That is how a legacy of love is built. May this Lenten season be a holy and reflectful time for you and your family.
After Jesus describes his disciples as salt and light, he continues his sermon by explaining how they are to understand his teaching, He has come not to abolish the law but to bring it to fulfillment. Jesus could well reiterate this statement when his later actions seem to negate the convictions of his Jewish contemporaries on keeping God’s law. He eats with sinners (9:11), cures on the Sabbath (12:7-13), and does not enforce the traditions of the elders on his disciples (12:1-8;15:2). Yet Jesus’ words and his actions show that he is not in conflict with the law itself, but with how it is being interpreted.
The law, understood and lived correctly, guides people in living righteously, or in right relationships, a virtue emphasized throughout Matthew’s Gospel. Though external manifestations of righteousness are important, Jesus goes beyond external actions to consider the interior dispositions. Later in Matthew’s Gospel, as Jesus’ passion draws near, he explains the “weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity” (23:23). These are the interior dispositions of righteousness that are the foundational for Jesus’ view of the law.
Jesus teaches through a series of antitheses, or contrasts, the difference between his teaching about the law and what people have heard about the law. Far from abolishing the law, Jesus’ teaching goes deeper, moving from external behavior to the righteous heart that motivates action.
May we with the Lord’s help grow in our understanding of the love that is at the heart of all of Jesus’ teaching.
In these next few weeks before Lent we are hearing the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel. Today Jesus says to his disciples. “You are the salt of the earth.” In other words, you will bring flavor to the world by the way you live your lives. Three of our parishioners who died in the last few months were the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Bill Arrigoni, Wanda Serbesku, and Lee Baerny were stewards in their faith. They were humble people. Humility comes from the Latin word “humus” which means earth or ground. They were well grounded, comfortable in their own skin, not putting on airs. They epitomized the Beatitudes, the Lord’s plan for a happy life. May we bring the flavor of the Gospel to others by performing deeds of justice and mercy, for we, like Bill, Wanda, and Lee, are disciples of Jesus. His words to his disciples are addressed to us.
Today we celebrate many things, namely the National Day of Prayer for the African American Family, the World Day for Consecrated Life, Groundhog Day, World Wetlands Day, and SuperBowl Sunday. Liturgically we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord when Mary and Joseph bring their newborn child, Jesus to the temple. As narrated in Luke’s gospel “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”
Simeon and Anna saw much more to this scene than a common couple fulfilling the Law. Simeon takes the child in his arms and says “nunc dimittis”- “Now you can dismiss your servant, O Lord for I have seen it all!” Now that the Messiah has come he can die in peace. Hopefully we too are ready for death because we have received Jesus into our lives by welcoming the most vulnerable in our society
This week I will be on my annual retreat in Seaside, Oregon. I’ve always loved being near the ocean. It provides a wonderful setting for rest, reflection, getting some exercise, and some good food. Last year I was surprised to learn that a waitress remembered me coming year after year. In fact, when I was leaving she said, “I’ll see you next year.” I will be sure to lift all of you in prayer. Also pray for me. I hope to solidify some of my dreams for my future retirement. May the Lord bless you in every way.