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Diocese of Reno

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The Sixth Sunday In Ordinary Time: February 3, 2023

Our Scripture passage for this Sunday comes from the Gospel of Matthew 5:17–37. This text is part of our Lord’s famous discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount, and it contains some of the most challenging teachings for disciples, as Jesus calls us to pursue greater righteousness and to not settle for conforming to the world around us.

Jesus teaches us that we can place our confidence in Him, especially when it comes to learning about the will of God for our lives. The Scribes and the Pharisees looked to Scripture (the Law and the Prophets) as the place where the revelation of God’s will could be found. For Christians, this revelation is found in Jesus’ life and ministry. In order to grasp what the Lord reveals about our lives, we must first know that revelation. Jesus speaks to us especially in the Gospels, which relate His actions, interactions, and teachings. We also see Jesus guiding the life and ministry of the early Church through the Holy Spirit directing the apostles. We can experience the revelation of the Lord personally in moments of prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament. Finally, we see Jesus acting in the lives of holy men and women who embody the living Spirit of Christ.
What resources most help you to experience and know God’s will?
Lots of people do things in the name of God. What are some of the indicators that someone is authentically following the will of God in their life?
For what situation do you need to seek the will of God at this time?
Commitment to Jesus means more than just confession of faith (v. Jam 2:18). Commitment to Jesus also involves a change of life that affects our actions. We have to do what we are taught. Jesus emphasizes this connection between professed and lived expressions of faith when He focuses on the practical ways in which the actions of disciples are affected by His teaching. When a person pursues religious studies they are accumulating interesting knowledge about the way in which people practice their faith. However, such an accumulation of knowledge does not necessarily affect the way a person lives. When someone seeks understanding of their faith in the context of a living relationship with God, then every insight serves to deepen their knowledge of the One whom they love and who loves them. Knowledge in a living relationship is never trivial. Rather, knowledge within the context of loving commitment becomes the motivation to change our lives in conformity to the will of the other. For disciples, any knowledge about God’s will helps us understand the heart of Jesus so that we might know how we can mirror that heart, seek that heart, and make His heart our own.
When was the last time a realization of faith changed your actions?
How do you teach others to seek and observe the will of God?
When have your actions or example led others to act in a way contrary to God’s will?
When you are learning about your faith, is it more a matter of religious studies or a journey of deepened relationship?
Our actions spring from our thoughts and the inner workings of our hearts; if we want to change our behavior, then we have to root out the thoughts that lead us to act in a certain way. Jesus wants us to go to the root of our actions so as to change our very thoughts. It is usually a sequential process from the time a destructive thought begins to the completion of a destructive action. By identifying and studying our destructive actions and the destructive actions of others, we can better understand the various steps that led a person to that painful moment. It is this honest study of our lives that allows us to recognize the various moments in the process where we could have and should have acted differently. Such changes may include seeking the council of a trusted and faith-filled friend, turning to prayer at a decisive moment, or openly acknowledging our destructive temptations in the graced-filled healing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our actions will rarely change until we understand the events that lead to those actions. A mature disciple includes periods of reflection throughout their day so as to examine the various states of consciousness. This daily examination of conscience will help a person recognize and pursue those thoughts that are in conformity with God’s will and to dismiss those thoughts that are contrary to God’s will.[1] 
With whom do you share your thoughts so as to seek correction before they develop into destructive actions?
Counselors oftentimes ask their clients to look at their lives and ask three questions: What happened to you? How did you respond? What did you believe about yourself as a result of that experience? These questions are meant to help people see the connection between false thinking and harmful doing. How has your growth in maturity allowed you to better understand the reasons for your actions so as to find greater freedom to act differently?
When can you take time to practice a daily examination of consciousness and what do you think would be the practical benefits of such a practice?
Each of the following four sections of this Gospel passage demonstrates how the great commandment (Love God and Love Neighbor) is expressed in concrete ways. It is by fulfilling the Love Commandment that we exercise greater righteousness than the Scribes and Pharisees.
If we treat our neighbor as ourselves then we will not harbor anger towards them; thus, love shows no hostility. In those times when we do find ourselves in situations of conflict due to human weakness then we are to seek reconciliation. Sometimes we learn to become comfortable with conflict and do not even desire reconciliation.

When have you allowed anger to grow too much in your heart and what has been the effect?
When have you reached out to reconcile with someone else?
What are the excuses you use to justify your anger or resentment toward someone else?
If you laid bare your thoughts before the Lord, what would God say about your hostile feelings?
With whom do you need to reconcile at this time and how can you do it?
If we respect one another as fellow human beings, then we will not covet them with lustful thoughts; thus, love is not predatory. In those times when we do find ourselves filled with lustful thoughts, Jesus counsels us to place safeguards in our life to guard against acts of weakness. In today’s world, there are a multitude of temptations when it comes to sexuality.

What are some of the prevalent ways in which lustful thoughts or behaviors cause damage in people’s lives today?
What are some of the safeguards that could be used to remove or overcome the occasion of such temptations?
If we are faithful to our life commitments and the promises we have made before God, we will persevere in fulfilling those promises; thus, love is faithful in marriage. In those times when we are distressed due to the challenges of fulfilling our life commitments, Jesus reminds us to seek God’s intention for our lives rather than settle for culturally accepted ways of handling problems. 

What can couples do to deepen their love and commitment to each other?
What are some of the tools that can help couples successfully grow together through difficult moments in their marriage?
If you could offer one important piece of wisdom or advice for others on how to live a happy and lasting marriage, what would it be?
What can a faith community do to better help people who experience the pain of divorce?
If we relate with one another in an honorable way, we will speak what is true at all times; thus, love is unconditional truth. Taking an oath has typically been used as a means of ensuring the truth of a person’s testimony. In the absence of an oath, the obligation to be truthful was substantially lessened. Jesus wants to remove the distinction between the words we say and intend to fulfill and the empty words we don’t mean or intend to fulfill. When a Christian speaks, their “yes” is to mean “yes” and their “no” is to mean “no” without conditions, qualifications, caveats, and so forth. For a disciple, all communication is to be truthful —  not just some communication.

Who is a person for you that exemplifies the consistent truthfulness Jesus is calling for?
What is it like to be in a situation where you can’t trust what someone says?
When has someone placed extraordinary trust in your word with no external guarantee of truthfulness?
When have you been let down by another person’s lack of truthfulness?
Jesus gives us these examples of destructive actions that have their origins in harmful thoughts. Our Lord was addressing the prevalent ways in which He saw violations of the commandment to love your neighbor. Our world is different from that of Jesus, yet human weakness remains the same.
What examples do you think Jesus would point out in our current world as ways in which we violate the commandment to love our neighbor, and what would He recommend we do to overcome our contemporary destructive behaviors?
[1] In the IV century, Evagrius of Pontus, following the Alexandrian interpretation of Scripture, proposed the concept of Logismoi or “Assaultive Thoughts” that threaten the inner dignity of those who seek perfection. These thoughts need to be identified and refuted with the power of God’s word (cf. Praktikos and Antirrhetikos). In more recent years, Henri Nouwen, following the teachings of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton spoke of this process of discernment as “to unmask the illusion of our life experiences,” that is, to submit our perceptions to a divine consideration of the facts, cf. Discernment, London: SPCK, 2013, p. 92; T. Merton, Contemplation in a World of Action, South Bend: Notre Dame University Press, 1999, pp. 154-155.
The Inspiration of Saint Matthew. Caravaggio. Oil on canvas, 1602. Contarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Roma.
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.”

Eucharistic Revival
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Eucharistic Revival Resources