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Homily for the Sixth Sunday Feb.12-13, 2011

posted Feb 13, 2011, 10:46 AM by fathermark@stmaryshuntingburg.org

Sixth Sunday of the Year

St. Mary's, Huntingburg

Feb. 12-13, 2011



"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets ...

Not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law ..."



            Back when many of us were growing up as Catholics, we had this image of God as a stern lawgiver ... an unbending judge  ... or at least a stern and demanding father.

God and the Church had all of these laws ... and we had to carefully obey each and every one of them.

... and not just about behaviors ... but rules about thoughts ... even about passing fantasies.

Meanwhile, God was up in heaven watching every mistake ... noting every little transgression ...  counting up each and every sin.

Yes, we were taught that God was loving and forgiving and merciful ... but maybe the emphasis was more on the fact that our God was also demanding ... just ... and stern.

And so, we all believed that, someday, when we stood before the awesome judgment seat of God ... well, we had better  be sure that the "good" column was longer than the "bad" column.


            And then came the Second Vatican Council ... in the mid 1960s ... and it seemed like Catholics discovered the God of love and mercy and forgiveness for the first time.

... and the pendulum kind of swung in the other direction.

These days, many Catholics  are inclined to see God ... not as a lawgiver ... or a judge ... or a stern father ...

No,  if anything, these days, God is seen more like some kind of a doting, forgetful,  namby-pamby grandfather.

Nowadays, we seem to think that God just overlooks everything.

Our indulgent grandfather up in heaven has laws  ... but he doesn't really stand by them ... "break them, and he'll forgive."

Do something bad, and it doesn't really matter ... because "God is love."

God teaches through his Church, for example, that sex outside of marriage is wrong ... but God doesn't really care.

God through his Church teaches that we should go to Mass each and every Sunday ... but ... "I'm traveling" ... or "I was up late last night" ... or " I woke up with a headache" ...  of "I'm having a bad hair day" ... "so I'm going to skip Mass this week ... God will understand."

Yes, God teaches that we are to love him above all ... but "I'll live my life as I want ... because we all know that, in the end, God will forgive it all."


            "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets ...

Not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law ..."

The fact is ... as Jesus is telling us ... God does cares about the law.

God cares about his commandments.

He cares about what he teaches us through his church.

And God cares very much what you and I do ... and if we are following those rules, commandments, and teachings.


            And it only makes sense.

Let's think about this for a minute.

Parents have lots of rules ... at least good parents do ... lots and lots of rules..

Don't do this ... don't do that ... and "don't do that other thing" ...

... on the other hand, you have to do A, B, and C ... and a little of D while you're at it.

Parents have lots of rules.

And each and every one of those rules is there for a purpose ... and not one of the rules is there because the parents just like exercising their authority ... or enjoy pushing their kids around, ...  or because those parents are mainly lawgivers or judges or stern mothers or fathers.

Each and every one of those rules is there for the good of their children ... whether those children realize it at this moment or not.

And so, parents care very much about their rules ... about each and every one of them ... (some more urgently than others) ... not because they are looking forward to punishing anyone ... but because they don't want their kids to hurt themselves ... or others.

Yes ... and when a child breaks those rules ... their parents keep loving and forgiving and caring ... but that doesn't mean that the rules suddenly became unimportant.


            And so, why would we be surprised that God, our Heavenly Father, has a lot of rules for us to follow?

Precisely because he is a God of love, he has commandments, rules, expectations for us ... well, of course, he does.

And God cares very much about his rules ... not because he is particularly a stern lawgiver ... an unbending judge ... or demanding Father ... but precisely because he loves his sons and daughters and wants what's best for them.

Yes, God always stands ready to forgive the repentant sinner ... God never stops loving ... but none of that means that his rules are unimportant ... to him ... or for us.


"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets ...

Not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law ..."


            But all good parents, of course, want more for their kids than just being able to follow the rules.

They want their kids to internalize the rules.

And they want all of that rule-following to make of their kids good people, people of character, people capable of respecting, caring about, and loving other people.


            And so it is with God.

He cares about his commands ... but he wants something deeper for us.

And so, Jesus says: yes, the commandment is: "Do not kill" ... but I say "Look into your heart and root out the anger, the refusal to forgive, the bitterness that is the root of killing ... and more, seek to be reconciled with others."

Yes, the commandment is:  "Do not commit adultery" ... but I say "Look into your heart and root out the lust that makes you reduce another human being to attractive body parts ... that makes you violate your own commitments or those of another person (even if it's only in your head)."

Yes, the commandment is: "Do not swear falsely" ... but I say "Look deeper and become people worthy of the instant trust of other people so you don't have to swear to anything."

Yes, there are commandments that matter ... but they are the tip of the iceberg ... there's a deeper change that has to come about inside of us.

Yes, there is this commandment and that commandment and yet more ... but fill your heart with love like the love of Jesus ... and embrace the commandments ... and get behind them ... get underneath them ... and go beyond them.


            Our God is certainly not just a stern lawgiver ... or an unbending judge ... or a demanding father.

But he is also most definitely not a doting, forgetful,  namby-pamby grandfather.

God is love ... and in his love ... he guides us with his teaching, with commandments, and with his rules ... to what is truly best for us.

And if we are his faithful, grateful, true sons and daughters ... then we must embrace what he teaches us ... but more, we must take in what it is he is trying to teach us ... let it form us ...

In the end, we must become like Jesus, the great fulfillment of the law ... the one who followed the Father's will to the very end ...

We must be filled with love like that of Jesus ... a love that is greater than any law ... but also a love that embraces the commands of the one who loves us so.