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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

An End to Legalism: The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020

    An End to Legalism:
The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020
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Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm 119; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37

We have a strange fascination with the law. When we choose to abide by the ones we like, we want the law rigidly enforced upon others, but when the law presents us with obstacles, we twist it, maneuver it, contort it, and break it to our advantage, but when we get caught, we plead for mercy while still asking for strict sentences upon other people. The law is designed for our freedom and full flourishing and is based on society’s common good and is the foundation for a proper moral life.

We like the law’s clarity because it tells us how far we can go and still be morally blameless. A priest friend, who tends towards rigid orthodoxy, recently said, “My verdict on Pope Francis is still inconclusive. I wish he would be clear on certain teachings because I just do not understand what to do with mercy. I need clarity and instruction.”

Historically, the Jews were known as a people of the Law, which was God-given in the covenant. The first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, provides 613 specific commands for a person of faith to follow. The common thought was that if all Jews kept each and every one of the Laws, they would find life, but sadly, no one ever has. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, explains that following the Law was never easy, and by being obedient to the Law, the Jews would earn credit with God as the chosen people. They tried to set themselves right with God, but in doing so, they relied solely upon what they could do, what they could earn, and, the truth is, we do not earn our salvation. It is given to us as a gift by God.

When Jesus became our Christ, he put an end to all legalism. We no longer have to satisfy God’s justice; we simply have to accept his mercy and love. It is not through our efforts that brought Christ into the world or raised him from the dead. Everything belongs to God alone. It is not our effort that wins God’s goodness. It is all done for us, and we only have to accept it. We must reject our tendency to legalism in order to accept the grace that is freely offered.

What do we do then? Obey the laws, but let’s not be governed by them. The mercy of Christ is our guiding star. We simply have to present ourselves to God in worship, which means to offer all that we do every day to God. The whole world will be able to see that we are the temple of the living God. Learn what mercy is, for that will show the world that you are a disciple of Christ. It is God’s unmistakable mercy that saves us. Only God’s mercy saves. God is in control, but it is up to us to show the world something about the God we know and love. We do this by giving mercy to others – the messy, complicated, senseless, limitless, unscripted chaos of mercy. Upon this the world rests. For those who still need laws, mercy is the ultimate law of a Christian.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (James 1) Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Tuesday: (James 1) o one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.

Wednesday: (James 1) Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger for anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.

Thursday: (James 2) Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you dishonored the poor. Are not the rich oppressing you?

Friday (James 2) What good is it if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?

Saturday (1 Peter 5) Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Monday: (Mark 8) The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign?

Tuesday: (Mark 8) The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

Wednesday (Mark 8) When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?”

Thursday (Mark 8) Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.”

Friday (Mark 8) What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Saturday (Mark 16) He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

Saints of the Week

February 17: The Seven Founders of the Servites (Thirteenth Century) were from Florence and they joined the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin, who were also known as Praisers. They devoted their apostolate to prayer and service and withdrew to a deserted mountain to build a church and hermitage. After adopting a rule and gaining recruits, they changed their name to the Servants of Mary.

February 21: Peter Damian, bishop and Doctor (1007-1072), was orphaned and raised by his brother, Damian, a priest in Ravenna. He began as a hermit monk and was then made abbot and cardinal. He became a reformer in the church often speaking out against clerical laxness.

February 22: The Chair of Peter is celebrated on this day. Previously, both Peter and Paul were remembered until their feast was transferred to June 29th. As the custom was ingrained in practice, Christians continued to honor the contributions Peter made to the church as the first of the apostles in continuous succession.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Feb 16, 1776. At Rome, the Jesuit prisoners in Castel S Angelo were restored to liberty. Fr. Romberg, the German assistant, aged 80, expressed a wish to remain in prison.
·      Feb 17, 1775. The French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Neapolitan Ambassadors in Rome intimate to the newly elected Pope Pius VI the will of their respective sovereigns that the Jesuits imprisoned in Castel S Angelo should not be released.
·      Feb 18, 1595. St Robert Southwell, after two and a half years imprisonment in the tower, was removed to Newgate and there thrust into a dungeon known as "Limbo."
·      Feb 19, 1581. The election of Fr. Claude Acquaviva as fifth general in the Fourth General Congregation. He was only 37 years of age and a Jesuit for only 14 years. He was general under eight popes. He had been a fellow novice with St Stanislaus.
·      Feb 20, 1860. Pope Pius IX visits the rooms of St Ignatius.
·      Feb 21, 1595. At Tyburn, the martyrdom of Robert Southwell after he had suffered brutal tortures in Topcliffe's house and in prison. He embraced the jailer who brought him word that he was to be executed. As he breathed his last, Lord Mountjoy, who presided over the execution, exclaimed: "May my soul be one day with that of this man."
·      Feb 22, 1599. By order of Pope Clement VIII, the superiors general of the Jesuits and the Dominicans, assisted by others, met to settle, if possible, the controversies about grace. Nothing came of the meeting, since the Dominicans insisted on the condemnation of the writings of Fr. Molina.


  1. Thank you for this breath of fresh air! Amen to God's mercy! When I spoke to the RCIA on Tuesday evening I compared justice, mercy and grace. With mercy we don't get what we deserve for we deserve to be punished but we are shown God's mercy and with God's grace we get what we don't deserve - God's unconditional love. I can no longer remember where I read that but it is so true. And people think we should get justice which is what we deserve. I'll take God's grace and mercy any day!!

    1. Amen to God's mercy. I'm glad you are having such a receptive group to God's message during your RCIA program. I'm thankful we do not get justice. Paul says that in Romans. Thanks be to God for having favor upon us.