Feb. l6, sermon of the Rev. Robert F. Tucker, St. Louis de Montfort Parish, Litchfield
We are all uneasy in the presence of this word. No sooner is a law laid down before we tease around its edges, looking for loopholes. Even today I think I might give up ice cream three days a week to watch my weight, I immediately work on narrowing the definition of ice cream and wonder does frozen yogurt count? How about sorbet? The challenge is to forgo ice cream, but my inner self says “NO” I need to find ways to give it up and have it too?
The perimeters of law may make us anxious. Like a noose lowered over our necks. But boundaries can be beneficial. Our Gospel this week is from the Sermon on the Mount. For the Scribes and Pharisees, virtue was largely measured by external observance of the law. For Jesus real virtue is in the heart! He expects honorable, respectful relationships between people. The law teaches against murder. Jesus upholds it but goes one step further and says we must not have anger. The law teaches against dishonesty. Jesus goes one step further and says we must not doubt one another’s words and actions.
To be counted among the BLESSED it is not enough to follow the law but to go beyond it in love and concern for others. As we just celebrated Valentine’s Day, so Jesus wants us to know that to be His true follower we must go beyond the law and the prophets. For His followers must live and act from the two great commandments’, love the Lord Your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. No one not even God has ever complained about hearing the words, “I love you” too much.
Our second reading tells us in the words of St, Paul that we have a great gift in our belief and trust in the Holy Spirit. Paul quotes from the Prophet Isaiah, “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard what has been revealed to us through the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit when called upon can guide, direct and lead us if we but ask. It, indeed, is through living the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit that we can remove anger from our lives.
Resentment, Indignation, and Anger replay over and over like a broken record, whenever we wander back to the moment or time we were hurt. She or he should not have said that, he or she shouldn’t have done that. I did not deserve that. All of which may be true but reviewing or relying the facts of the law does nothing to heal us. It only keeps the wound fresh and the pain lively. How to let these emotions go is the challenge? The choice is yours just as living by the law is your choice. It is also your choice to live by the two great commandments of Jesus Christ, LOVE GOD AND NEIGHBOR!
Love and forgiveness is a lot like the story about listening and hearing. A high school music appreciation class was asked the difference between listening and hearing. At first, there was no response. Finally, a hand went up and one student offered this wise definition, “listening is wanting to hear”. A wise old owl sat on an oak, the more he saw the less he spoke; the less he spoke, the more he heard. Why aren’t we like that wise old owl?