Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 12, 2017)

Today’s Scripture readings elaborate on the wonderful reminder that we have heard from the book of Sirach: God has created us out of love, and the surest sign of his love is the blessing of free will. Sirach encourages us to exercise our freedom to choose wisely.

St. Paul reminds us that God has revealed his wisdom to us through his Spirit who dwells in us. The gift of faith gives us a broader view of life than mere human wisdom can give. Allowing the Spirit to lead us will enable us to see beyond our own selfish needs and desires and choose to act in ways that manifest God’s goodness and love.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about one way to do this. He encourages us to look beyond the mere letter of the law and strive to act in ways that move us toward the ideal living of the kingdom of God. Minimal obedience is far beneath the dignity of anyone who genuinely loves God and neighbor.

Jesus’ words in the gospel are not to be taken too literally. He is using the customary Middle Eastern love of exaggeration to make his point. What he is saying is that reaching the ideal implies avoiding whatever will compromise the ideal.

For example, the letter of the law says: “You shall not commit murder.” Living by the spirit of the law will mean: Do nothing which can injury another person (anger, abuse, hatred). And if you have injured anyone, go and seek reconciliation immediately. Then the two of you can worship God in mutual love and respect.

Jesus is encouraging us to listen to the wisdom of God present in us in the Spirit, and use our freedom to choose wisely as we go about our daily living.

In this way, we respond to the love that God has shown us in the gifts he has given us. Our choice to use our gifts wisely becomes an act of love. And in choosing to love, we are building up the kingdom.

May we learn to be faithful in following the lead of his grace.

Rev. Michael S. Murray, OSFS, is the Executive Director of the De Sales Spirituality Center.