for Sunday, February 16, 2020
Today's readings speak about the interior life of the committed follower of Jesus Christ. They make it clear that God sees within our hearts. As His people, we have to do far more than attend Mass on Sundays, receive the sacraments and say daily prayers. As Christians, we have to be certain that our exterior actions reflect our interior attitudes.
The first reading from the Book of Sirach tells us that we are engulfed with the mercy and love of God. He is all around us, and in us. He knows what is going on within us. He gives us a choice: choose Him or reject Him. If we reject Him, we die. If we choose Him, we live.
We are reminded that we are not slaves. We are heirs to the Kingdom. We are sons and daughters of God. Every person has dignity. Every one of us is chosen by God. We cannot sacrifice the freedom we have in Jesus Christ to the evil of the world. We cannot allow ourselves to be enslaved by sin. Jesus came to free us from sin.
But how can we avoid sin? Well, the obvious answer is to avoid occasions of sin, be those occasions people who would lead us into sin, or places that we, people of the Light, do not belong--including the dark alleys of the internet.
Today's readings tell us to go deeper than just avoiding occasions of sin. They tell us that God sees what is going on within us. We have to do all we can to be sure that we treasure His presence within us.
If there is evil in our minds, then evil actions will follow. Let me be clear, I am not speaking about those things that flash through our minds, the things that we get rid of with a quick prayer, "Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner". Those quick nasty flashes are part of being a human. They are not the problem.
The real problem comes when we entertain evil thoughts. People, sadly, do this. People spend time plotting out how they can do this or that to or with another person. Men and women, guys and girls in high school and college, talk about people as sex objects. They consider how they can take advantage of another person, using them for their own desires be they sexual desires, or how they can take advantage of others to get better grades, or to exploit in any way. People entertain bad thoughts when they plot out what they want to happen during or after a party. People entertain bad thoughts when they consider how they can get back at someone. When people are malicious, their evil flows from within them.
We cannot tolerate hypocrites. We are disgusted with hypocrites. And we are disgusted with ourselves when we are hypocrites. We cannot stand ourselves when we create an external personage that is very different than the person we really are. We are repulsed by our thoughts when we give ourselves over to plotting sin.
Jesus speaks about this in today's Gospel. He tells us to clean up our act on the inside so that our external actions are not hypocritical but a true reflection of whom we are. It is not enough to avoid hurting another person, we cannot hate anybody. Evil actions come from hate. Recently, some in our society have given credence to hate. We need to fight against this. We Christians are people of Jesus Christ, Love Become Flesh. Those who foster hate are anti-Christs.
How does this happen? How does evil gain such power? Evil gains power when people refuse to fight off hatred in their own lives.
This is what Jesus means when he says that unless our holiness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees we will not enter the Kingdom of God. We need to fight off any tendency we have to evil, be that hatred, or lust, or avarice, or jealousy. We can't be pretending we're pure when we are considering using others for sex. We cannot be making believe we love another person if we just want to have sex with him or her. We cannot say that we are doing our best to live as Christians, when we are planning to get drunk next Friday. We cannot say that we are followers of Jesus Christ if we foster any kind of hatred within us.
We cannot be two faced. We have to say what we mean. My mentor and our dearly departed pastor, Fr. John LaTondress, used to say, "My life is an open book. I have no secrets. What you see is what you get." We all need to say that. This is what Jesus means when he says, "let your yes mean yes and your no mean no." We shouldn't need to take oaths to prove our righteousness. We just need to be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
God peers into the depths of our souls. He knows where evil lurks. He also knows how hard we are trying to destroy evil within us. Every day we pray for His help that we might fight against evil. That is what we mean when at the end of the Lord's Prayer we say, "Deliver us from evil." For the worst evil in the world is also the one evil that we can defeat. The worst evil in the world is the evil within us.
Deliver us, Lord, from evil.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Sirach 15.15-20
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 2.6-10
Gospel: Matthew 5.17-37
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: