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Sunday:       Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Date:         February 12, 2017.
Year:         A
The readings: [Sir. 15:15-20; 1 Cor. 2:6-10; Mt. 5:17-37]
The message:  Help us to dwell in Your Presence.
Prepared by:  Catholic Doors Ministry
Total words:  1618


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** The readings follow the sermon.

When a pre-schooler touches something hot, he learns that it burns. If he climbs on a chair or up the stairs, he learns that he can fall down. Most children do fall and bump their little head. In child development, the child progressively learns by natural instinct how to use logic to ensure that his basic needs of life are met. Those needs consist of eating and drinking, sleeping when tired, dressing up or taking shelter to protect himself from the heat of the sun or the cold, seeking mom and dad's security, etc... The pre-schooler even learns to be safety minded by not trying to chase and catch in his hand those nice looking yellow bumble bees. It should be the other way around, the bee chasing him.

But what about when we become adults? Is our learning process completed? Many seem to think so! Being an adult, they consider themselves mature! But, are we really mature in the whole of our being according to the teachings of the Bible?

True maturity does not only consist of going through the phases of child development, getting a job and finally settling down with a family. That is worldly maturity. Today's readings speak of spiritual maturity that begins when the individual is spiritually enlightened by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity has to do with learning spiritual virtues that will benefit the holiness of the soul.

Today's First Reading tells us that the Lord God placed before us fire and water and He tells us to stretch out our hand to take which ever we choose. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are witnesses to each other that we have stretched out our hand and chosen water. But how many choose the second gift of God with joy, the fire?

The spiritually mature Christian knows what God meant by those words. Today's Second Reading refers to understanding God's wisdom, what is sacred and hidden, what God decreed before the ages for the glory of all. In Genesis 1:26, we read that God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness..." The last words were, "to our likeness", referring to God's characteristics. God decreed that His children would be in His likeness, having His Divine characteristics.

Now, consider Adam and Eve who were the perfect happy couple in the Garden of Eden before they sinned through their disobedience. Did they have all of God's characteristics or did they lack some of them? Did Adam and Eve have the ability to know what it meant to be cold or to be warm? Could they understand shame before they sinned? Could they understand the words forgiveness, mercy and compassion? Could they understand what it meant to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick and the prisoners? Did they understand what it meant to be angry or to be violent? Did they cry or understand sadness? Did they understand hardship from hard work? Did they know what it feels like to lose a loved one? Could Adam and Eve have practiced faith, hope and charity when there was no need for it because God was present among them and they already lived a life of perfect love?

It appears from the above list, one that is far from being complete, that while Adam and Eve were happy in many ways, they were deprived of many characteristics that would entitled them to be children of God in the likeness of God Himself.

If someone here knows how Adam or Eve, before the original sin, could have experienced shame, mercy, hardship, sadness, faith, hope and any of the characteristics that we have today because of sin, let him or her come up here and explain it to us! [PAUSE]

Religious truths teach us that while God did not will for sin to enter the world, He allowed it to happen as punishment. Religious truths also teach us that God can make good things come out of all things, including from evil things. While we have been cursed by sin and called to suffer physical death, we are blessed by the knowledge and spiritual growth that we gain through the outcome of sin.

The child who touched fire for the first time certainly became wiser. He will not touch the fire a second time because he does not want to get burned again. In a way, the child is blessed by God, knowing what fire feels like. Before the original sin, Adam and Eve could not have experienced the burning of fire. They could not have understood how the skin blisters from being burned. They could not have understood how fire destroys completely what it consumes such as during forest fires.

This spiritual understanding of today's first two Readings leads to the Third Reading. Jesus said that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The scribes were known to be a class of citizens who copied and explained the Laws of Moses. The Pharisees based their lives on the written law and thousands of detailed prescriptions handed down by verbal tradition. Both were so obsessed with the laws that they had lost the meaning of the purpose of the law, the necessity for flexibility, common sense and even the meaning of mercy. They lacked spiritual maturity. They were worldly in their ways. Their hearts were cold and darkened.

Jesus brought a message of love to the world. He taught us that love overcomes everything! Jesus overcame the world. [Jn. 16:33] He did not allow Himself to be overcomed by evil, but overcame evil by goodness. [Rom. 12:21] The one who overcomes the world is from God, [1 Jn. 4:4] being a child of God.

The Almighty Father is concerned for our salvation that is obtained through the spiritual growth of our soul, in the living of our faith in Jesus Christ. By His grace, we are given the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit to transform us into holy children.

To become holy children, we must reconcile with our brothers and sisters, first of all, being concerned with our spiritual maturity. It is not important what the others think because we have forgiven someone who was hurting us. What is important is that we have obeyed God's command to love one another.

Today's readings teaches us that in our lives, our work, in marriage and even in our social lives, we must seek out our spiritual maturity. We must open our spiritual minds to the Holy Spirit who searches everything, even the depths of God, so we can know the will of God in all things. Knowing the will of God, we must be moved to act upon it, performing the acts of goodwill that the Holy Spirit inspires us to do.

We must stop looking at the hardships and sufferings of life as punishments from God. Rather, we must ask ourselves, "What does God want me to learn from this discipline?" "What virtue can I gain from this hardship or suffering?" Can I learn patience that Adam and Eve could not have learned? Can I learn compassion for others who have similar hardships? Can I learn not to be judgmental?

When we will have learned what God is trying to teach us, having been disciplined by the grace of a loving Heavenly Father and having been purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit, then my brothers and sisters, we will begin to shine as children of God in the likeness of God Himself.

* * * * * * * * * *

The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

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First Reading...

"If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and they will save you. If you trust in God, you too shall live, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

The Lord has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. Before each person are life and death, good and evil and whichever one chooses, that shall be given.

For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything; his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every human action. He has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and he has not given anyone permission to sin." [Sirach 15:15-20]

* * * * * * * * * *

Second Reading...

"Brothers and sisters: Among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God's wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

As it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.' These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God." [1 Cor. 2:6-10]

* * * * * * * * * *

Gospel Reading...

"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.

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that the one who is angry with their brother or sister will be liable to judgment; and whoever insults their brother or sister, will be liable to the council; and whoever say, 'You fool,' will be liable to the hell of fire.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother and sister, and then come and offer your gift.

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while the two of you are on the way to court, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

'You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

"It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

"Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.

Let what you say be simply `Yes' or `No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [Mt. 5:17-37]

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