Father Howard Hansen’s Reflections
for The Sixth Week in Ordinary Time 2011
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 13, Mt. 5: 20-22, 27-28, 33-34, 37
Today’s Gospel from St. Matthew picks up Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount and gives us a look at the so-called antitheses. We have come in contact with these statements of change from Jesus many times before in these homilies. An antithesis (singular) is something that goes against the common trend or the common way of doing things. There is a series of them in the Sermon on the Mount and they serve to show us exactly what Jesus meant when he told us he had come to change the law but not to abolish it. The antitheses are part of these changes.
They are easy to spot because they usually begin with the words “You have heard” and then are introduced with the words, “But I say to you.” For example, “You have heard 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.”
We have mentioned many times that Jesus came to raise the level of human consciousness. He takes things up a notch. He raises the bar. It only stands to reason that if humankind is going to be saved, redeemed, they are going to have to change, rise a notch, make the U turn of conversion. If we stay the same as we always were, we are not going to do a whole lot of changing.
So, if we really want the redemption, the salvation, the Kingdom, we must change our ways. In the closing lines of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to be serious about this. We have to desire this change, we have to want it with all our heart, if we truly wish to walk in the way of the Lord. He tells us, “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no’.” If we really want to change we will say “yes” I want it, and then do it, go for it. Let’s not play games with Jesus.
The 3rd Step of the 12 Steps puts this in different language: made a decision to ……,: meaning the same thing. The word decision comes from the Latin word “decidere” which means to cut away, do away with. We truly mean to do away with whatever it is in our lives that is preventing the changes we desire.
So, as the old AA cliche goes: Do it, dammit.
Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Feb. 14, Mark 8: 11-13
“The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus.”
If the Pharisees wanted to argue with Jesus, it is easy to see they were still into their own agenda and were not about ready to accept the changes Jesus was recommending. All this stuff about “show us a sign” is just another way of saying, “we do not accept what you say.” They were still only interested in doing things their own way.
There is an old story about a boy and his grandfather walking a donkey down a road. The people saw this and said they were stupid for not riding the donkey. So the grandfather got on the donkey and was criticized for making the boy walk. Then the boy got on the donkey and was criticized for not respecting his elders. Finally, they both got on the donkey and rode and were criticized for being cruel to animals.
It was kind of like this with Jesus and the Pharisees: No matter what Jesus did, he could not win. Is this the way we are in the face of the changes Jesus asks us to make in order to better follow him?
Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Feb. 15, Mark 8: 14-2
In our Gospel for today the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod represents their bad influence on others. The disciples again lacked understanding. St. Mark does not specify what the disciples should have “seen” about Jesus — perhaps that they had no need to worry about bread when Jesus was there to care for their needs. They had just witnessed Jesus feeding the thousands with a few loaves of bread and some fish and yet they were worried that they had no bread in the boat. The disciples, even after witnessing the multiplication of the loaves, doubted that Jesus would care for them in their need for bread.
The yeast of the Pharisees and Herod, their bad influence, their wanting sign after sign and doubting the works of Jesus had spread to the disciples. They had seen the miraculous powers of Jesus at work and still they doubted. Yeast is that way. One little bit of yeast can affect the whole mass of bread dough. Like one bad apple in a barrel will cause all the apples to spoil.
The evil that is going on in the world today — the greed, the violence, the rage, the lust, spreads to us all. We are surrounded by it. It rubs off on us, if you will. All of us are perhaps more prone to anger and rage today than we were some years ago. This “stuff” spreads through the whole mass. Let us pray that we may be aware of this and make an extra effort to keep this “yeast of the world” from infecting us as we try and follow Jesus.
Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Feb. 16, Mark 8: 22-26
Once again in today’s Gospel, the faith of the people caused the cure of one of their members whom they obviously loved very much. He was a blind man who must have been a good man with many friends. These friends had heard of Jesus’ healing powers, believed, and brought their blind friend to Jesus for help and Jesus cured the man of his blindness.
This Gospel makes me wonder if I have any friends who are in real need of help of one sort or another. I’m rather sure we all could find some if we looked. These are the people who ask us continually for our prayers. Let us “take them to the Lord” on the wings of prayer and ask Jesus to cure them from their malady.
Let’s remember to pray for those who ask us to do so for them and their needs.
Jesus is only too willing to help us all see more clearly.
Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Feb. 17, Mark 8: 27-33
The proof is in the pudding. Remember that old saying? If you want to prove it to yourself that someone is a good cook, try their cooking. If it is good, then they qualify. Simple. And the same thing applies to Jesus and his values. If you have any doubts at all that Jesus is the Son of God, try his values for a while. Try being compassionate, caring, loving, forgiving, serving, prayerful, following his commandments, for a few months and then see if you are not happier, more peaceful, more serene than you were before you started this. The proof is in the pudding.
This is kind of the same exercise we propose to someone who doesn’t believe there is a God. Get them to act as if there is a God for three or four months. Ask them to make a commitment that each morning when they rise they will get on their knees and thank God for the gift of another day and to help them during that day. Then at night, before they retire, do the same thing and thank God for the good and not-so-good things that happened that day. And after the three or four months of doing this, see if there isn’t a notable difference for the better in their lives for having done this. Have them try it.
Act as if. The proof is in the pudding.
Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Feb. 18, Mark 8: 34 – 9:1
“What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
I believe more people should read the quote of Jesus just given above and meditate long and hard on it. I read a little blog the other day of a meeting held in a large U.S. city with nine of the world’s most important people present. They included the president of the largest steel company in the country, the largest gas company, the largest utility company, among others. Twenty-five years after this meeting, where were these powerful men? Three had died penniless, three had committed suicide, two were in prison and one had gone insane. So much for riches, power, and greatness equalling happiness.
We all know this — so why do we keep butting our heads against the wall? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Let’s try this way — the way we all know will bring us happiness and joy.
Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Feb. 19, Mark 9: 2-13
The Peanuts Cartoon is always good for a daily chuckle and sometimes they even go a little deeper. The one I read recently shows Schroeder, the little guy who sits on the floor playing the piano, carrying a record on Brahm’s Fourth Symphony. “What are you going to do with that?” asks Lucy. “Listen to it,” replied Schroeder. “You mean dance to it, sing to it, hum along with it, tap your foot to it?” asked Lucy. “No, just listen to it,” says Schroeder.“Dumbest thing I ever heard of,” replies Lucy.
In today’s Gospel, God the Father says, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Do we think this is the dumbest thing we’ve ever heard of?