By Brian Vetter, C.S.C.
Sunday, February 23
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5: 38 – 48
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
These past few weeks we have been hearing passages from the Sermon on the Mount and they may have made us uncomfortable and called us to do a little soul-searching. Jesus used a typical rabbinical practice of presenting another opinion. He begins with, “You have heard that it was said….” then he gives an alternate way of thinking, acting and believing, that is not easy to hear or accept. “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This was a law called lex talionis. This law was given to scale back the types of extreme retaliation and revenge that existed. In its day, it was a compassionate teaching against inordinate revenge on a mass scale. “Just an eye for an eye. Just a tooth for a tooth,” we might have said the punishment should match the crime.
This passage seems to be out of sync with the world in which we are living. “Hit me – I hit you back.” “Get them before they get us!” “Strike them before they strike us.” Except none of that is in sync with the teachings and life of Jesus. None of that is in accord with this Gospel passage today. “You have heard it said…” then Jesus comes in with a little word, a simple conjunction and everything changes. He says “BUT – I say to you.”
Jesus tells us not to offer resistance or take revenge — to turn the other cheek, to lend what we have, to go even further than people ask us to go with them. He seems to invite us to be passive and stupid.
He seems to invite us to be meek, humble, and naïve. What Jesus is demanding is tough.
I like to think of myself as a non-violent person. I don’t know that I am all the time. When I use this gospel passage as a backdrop to look at my life, I wonder if I am as non-violent as I like to think I am. Am I non-violent in the ways I respond or treat others?
I can name the ways in my own life where I am resistant to the reading today. I can also look at my own life and identify the times in my life when I have been the victim of violence. There is also the institutional violence of which I am sometimes a part both in society and in the church because of complacency, complicity or indifference.
What about this reading? Is Jesus telling us to just ignore violence and injustice, or ignore the violence done to us or the violence done to others or the violence done to the planet or the violence done to God? To be non-violent is not to be blind, it is just the opposite — to be non-violent is to be acutely aware of the violence, the injustice, the sin around us but to respond to these in ways that will bring about change. Respond to violence and injustice in ways that will bring peace and restore harmony.
Jesus is saying “you have heard it said, to return violence with violence but I say to you love your enemies do good to those who persecute you.” I think he is saying to recognize that we are brother and sister to each other and cultivate an attitude of peace and love for our brothers and sisters. History teaches us that a cycle of violence for violence can continue for thousands of years and until one side decides not to respond with violence that cycle will not end.
Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you … these words today are so hard to hear and so hard to do … sometimes it is hard enough to just keep on loving the people we love but Jesus insists that we love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. Pray for our enemies? Yes, it is the bedrock of discipleship. It is core to being a follower of Jesus. Jesus does not make this a matter for negotiation or half-hearted acceptance. He is very clear on how we are to treat each other.
An old rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended, and day had begun. “Could it be,” asked one student, “when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?” “No,” answered the rabbi. Another asked, “Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it is a fig tree or a peach tree?” “No,” responded the rabbi. “Then when is it? When will we know that the night has ended, and the day has begun.?” The old rabbi responded, “It is when you can look on the face of any woman or man, any boy or girl and see your sister or brother. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night.”
Perhaps our night will end when we will come to recognize that those who are the victims and perpetrators of what is called the war on terrorism, are seen as our brothers and sisters.
Perhaps our night will end when we draw the circle wider so that it will include those who have shut us out and those whom we have shut out.
Perhaps our night will end when we dare not give in to the sirens of cowardice and greed and hate and fear. When we strive to heal wounds not create new ones. When we strive to lift people up and not put them down. When we try to create beauty where there is ugliness, peace where there is hostility, freedom where there is oppression, acceptance where there is rejection, new life where there seem to be only dead ends. When there is no “me and mine” but only “we and ours.” When there is no “us and them” but only brothers and sisters.
Perhaps our night will end when we not only pray for our enemies, but we begin to love them as our brother or our sister.
Perhaps our night will end when we take the words of Jesus and live them.
For we are not defined by Lex Talionis – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We have been defined by Jesus … and we have been anointed and appointed chosen and set apart to bring that spirit to others and it is the spirit of non-violence and non-retaliation. It is the spirit that lives in us because God lives in us.
-Sr. Teresa Tuite, OP
Sunday, February 16
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5: 17-37
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment;
and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin;
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’
will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife – unless the marriage is unlawful –
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.
But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the evil one.”
In the first reading for this Sunday we learn that for the people of Old Testament to Keep the Commandments of God and to live faithfully would be to insure the blessing of God. Not to do so would bring loss of their relationship with God.
In the gospel for today, we see Jesus quoting from the 10 Commandments of God that were given to Moses as His Holy Word. Then Jesus does something unheard of. He moves beyond the literal interpretation of the words and extends them to how people are asked to live in the new kingdom, the one He was sent to bring and to have flourish. In short one must to go beyond the literal interpretation of what they have heard in the 10, and make them come alive by the way they live them out each day. The social aspect of the 10 commandments is the proof of their devotion to Jesus in the new kingdom he was sent to bring. The higher standards that Jesus brings in the gospel today are a challenge and an invitation to us. We are asked to simply live fully in and for Christ Jesus because of the light he brings to the human situation and because he wants us so badly to be with Him in the Kingdom of God.
Think about how His words today come alive in your heart and in your daily life.
To view the recap slideshow video of the 2020 Men’s Cornerstone Retreat, click the image below.
To All of The Men of St. Brigid: You are invited to join us for the 11th annual St. Brigid of Kildare Men’s Retreat. The theme this year is Brotherhood…Stronger Together. The retreat is being held at St. Therese’s Retreat Center. The retreat runs from Friday January 31, 2020 at 6 PM and ends mid-day Sunday February 2. Take some time to invest in your personal and spiritual growth. Activities will include talks by clergy and men of our parish along with time for personal reflection and fellowship with other men of the parish. This retreat is for all men regardless of where you are in your faith journey. Each man will get his own room, and meals and snacks are provided. Registration for the retreat will open online on Monday December 2 at 9AM. Last year’s retreat filled up quickly, so don’t wait to register. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Matt Niemiec at 614-352-1131 or email@example.com or to Stephan Dober at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, February 9
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5: 13 -16
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Our Sr. Teresa Tuite is the native Bay Stater on our parish staff, but I’m sure she won’t mind if I turn your attention for just a moment to that Commonwealth. In 1630, as the English Puritans prepared to set sail for their new home, the first governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop, gave a famous sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity” to his followers. He quoted today’s Gospel and declared that their new American colony “shall be as a ‘city upon a hill.’ For the eyes of all people are upon us.” Many political scientists point to this Puritan ideal of the “exceptional society” as a foundational element of all future American political thought.
As Catholics, our dogmatic theology is far from the stark and uncompromising Calvinism of those first English settlers. We can smile at the naivete that could believe the Atlantic Ocean would be for the Elect a sufficient barrier against the intrusion of the Unregenerate masses’ brokenness and sin. But while as Catholics the Puritans may not be our theological forebears, perhaps as Americans we can draw strength from their example of courageous optimism and hope. It was an earnest optimism, a true belief in the possibility of a better world, conformed completely to Jesus Christ. That ideal led them to leave behind hearth and country, to cross a perilous sea, and to carve out a new home on the shores of a vast wilderness.
Holy Mother Church gives us her Social Doctrine, whereby we are given the tools and outlook to start working to bring about a more just, merciful, and equitable world–a more Christian world. What if we American Catholics took to heart the Puritans’ example of heroic optimism and fortitude and applied it to our living out of the Gospel and efforts to ensure the dignity of every human being? Just imagine how a vibrant and outspoken Catholic Church could help guide and lead America to live up to its loftiest Christian ideals!
God often works in ironic ways. What could be more ironic than if it was the faithful implementation of Catholic Social Doctrine which helped to create that just and exemplary “City upon a Hill” first envisioned by Calvinist refugees four centuries ago?
Click the image to the right to view the full page flyer of all of our Lenten activities.
The Little Rock Scripture Study will be undertaking a special seven-week Lenten study, The Passion and Resurrection Narratives of Jesus, beginning on Tuesday, February 25, 2020. This group meets on Tuesdays at 1:00 PM.
The Little Rock Scripture Study group welcomes new members. If you are interested in joining this Lenten study, please contact Teresa Salmeron at 614-929-4413 or email her at email@example.com.
Click below to register and purchase study materials. Orders received by midnight, February 13 will be included in the group study material order. After that date, participants can speak with Teresa regarding purchasing materials independently.
Please consider joining this study. We’d love to have you!
Sunday, February 2
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Luke 2: 22 – 40
When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
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.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
–and you yourself a sword will pierce–
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and we hear about two individuals, Simeon and Anna. The story of Jesus’ presentation in Jerusalem is one of the few stories in the gospels that have to do with Jesus’ childhood.
There is an old saying that “Good things come to those who wait.” If this is true, the story of Simeon, Anna, and the baby Jesus in the temple is a great example. The coming of Christ involved all manner of waiting on God. A young maiden, a dying man and an old widow are all models of hearts yielding to God.
As a firstborn son, Jesus was expected to be consecrated to God. This was in memory of God sparing the firstborn sons of Israel at the beginning of their Exodus from Egypt. Both Simeon and Anna had dedicated their lives to God and lived to see the Messiah before they died. So, when they encountered the baby Jesus in the temple, they rejoiced because they had seen salvation. Simeon showed that he understood that Christ was coming, not to deliver the Jews from their enemies, but instead, that this salvation was for all people and will bring revelation to the Gentiles. He would do this through suffering as a servant, dying on the cross, and then rising from the dead.
All who believe God’s promise for Jesus’ return believe He will come back one day and are waiting for that promise to come true. How are you and I going to wait for that promise? Are we living our lives in a way that is pleasing to God?
Friends let us be like Simeon and Anna and live with an attitude of worship and obeying God every day. Knowing that Jesus can come today, or tomorrow, should cause us to live with the right priorities. It should cause us to do things that will matter for eternity, rather than just for next week. With that in mind, let’s have an attitude of praising Him and thanking Him for all that He has done and will do for us as we believe Him by our faith.
-Deacon Paul Zemanek
Sunday, January 26
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 4: 12 – 23
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.
The Gospel in its opening line states that John (the Baptist) has been handed over. He is in prison and will be killed. The Gospel writer is making it clear that John is no longer leading a movement. The fact that Jesus “heard” of John’s imprisonment implies that Jesus was not actually following John, otherwise he would have known of the handing over first hand. Jesus has been on his own in Nazareth, but now he departs for Capernaum in Galilee. This action taken by Jesus would have fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. Yet, as with John, Jesus announces the coming of the kingdom of heaven through repentance.
All of this introduction sets up the recruiting of Jesus’ first followers. We know them later as apostles, but for now, they are not clued in to what their futures may hold. Jesus calls us all and he takes us where we are. Like the apostles, we may not be ready to hear all that Jesus has in mind for us. He does, however, draw us to himself. While the metaphor of “fishers of men (and women)” may give us a positive nostalgic image of this Gospel, we can easily come to a misunderstanding as it could be misinterpreted as being manipulative or trapping. After all, the purpose of a fishing net was for commercial gain. Jesus does not seek gain, but gives — and as we will see, he gives us all he has through his suffering, death, and resurrection. In this instance, Jesus’ call requires a response from us. There is no manipulation involved in his call and there is always a way for us to escape, if we wish. If after seeing what is asked of us in this call, we can always walk away. The “mending their nets” comment suggests that some fish had escaped through their own will and industry.
These first responders bravely responded to the call and experienced the beauty and completeness of Jesus’ message of salvation that the kingdom of heaven is here and now. It is significant that Jesus’ call takes place right in their work place. The call comes directly from Jesus. “I chose you, you did not choose me.”
At the same time, there is no evidence that they lived a life destitute or wanting. Leaving the tools of the only way of life they had known and choosing a simpler lifestyle for the new work we are called to do is the path to inner joy. Hopefully, we can remain open to that call when it comes.
-Deacon Don Poirier