Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 6th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – FEBRUARY 12, 2017. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021217.cfm. Thanks as always for reading this blog; sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit – and for all your feedback and comments. Have a great week – God Bless, Fr Jim
So this Tuesday is Valentine’s Day. It’s been hard not to notice. The day after Christmas, the CVS drug-store – definitely the place you think of when you think Romance – had already cleared out the Christmas decorations and had boxes and boxes of cards, candy, Stuffed Animals (including my personal favorite, Snoopy) with ‘I love you’ stitched on it. A whole variety of gifts for people to take a moment to express their love for one another. While it’s not just a romantic thing – it’s common to see little kids share “valentine’s” with each other, children with their parents and grandparents to take a moment to say ‘I love you,’ – the greatest amount of stress surrounding this holiday seems to be among guys and girls dating. And call me biased, it seems 100 times worse on the guy side. Women seem instinctually to be more thoughtful, caring and creative.
Ladies, you can call guys boobs, insensitive, whatever – the fact is most guys don’t know how to find the best gift for Valentine’s Day! It can be hard to find the “right” way to express our love. Fortunately for my Mom, a nice card and some flowers suffices… The last Valentine’s Day of major consequence for me was in college. My girlfriend at the time was a classmate of mine who we had been dating for about 3 months (but we had been friends for about a year and a half) Anyway, I knew that she always loved the music from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and that she had never been to a live theatre production- so when I saw that there was a Broadway production of it touring in Philadelphia (which was about an hour away from where we went to school) and that it was going to be there on Valentines Day, I thought that would be perfect!
$50 a ticket mind you – it’s a lot now, yeah, well back in 1993 and being a poor college student myself – it was a heck of a lot more! I share that not to complain, but as a preface to this next part that, in the light of the 24 years since I might understand a little better why the night didn’t go as well as I had imagined. After $100 on tickets, and knowing the parking, gas, etc was going to be another 30-40 bucks, well I was more than financially tapped out and I just hadn’t planned every detail correctly. So as we’re driving around 5:30/6:00 that evening to the theatre, I realized something important: I was kind of hungry… so I asked my Valentine “Are you hungry?” She said that she was, so being the gentleman I was, I asked her if she had a preference to stop at Burger King or McDonalds. Despite my friends who mocked me later about this, I did not purchase her a “Happy Meal.” She had a Big Mac value meal (which I told the woman behind the counter to ‘super-size’ – since it was on me – I know how to treat a lady… I was even willing to splurge on an apple pie, which she had turned down)
Anyway, the show was great, very well done… and I thought that she enjoyed it all, but it wasn’t long after that we broke up. In fact it was less than a week. And in the interest of full disclosure, she broke up with me… citing this night as one reason “this isn’t going to work.” Which, ladies, just an F.Y.I. – when you’re breaking up with a guy, telling him he just wasted about $150 on a date night isn’t the most sensitive thing to do… I remember her saying ” I did enjoy the evening, but I’m sorry if I don’t find McDonalds for dinner followed by watching Jesus get crucified set to rock music the most romantic thing I would’ve imagined.” The next fall I entered the seminary. (Kidding, it was 2 years later…)
It can be hard to find the “right” way to express our love. Not just between boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, or any of our other human relationships… How do we show our love for God? Is there a Valentine’s Day gift or card that would somehow be able to articulate I Love you Lord?’
If we look at what Jesus is saying in this entire passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew, we find that Jesus is telling us how to love our Heavenly Father. We know that God hates sin… Jesus hates sin. So Jesus tells us how we can demonstrate our love: If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away…if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off… No, there aren’t knives and saws in the back of the Church for us to make this a Valentine’s Day that God (or any of us) would never forget. Fortunately, even the thickest headed of men who loved Jesus – the apostles – realized that Jesus wasn’t looking for them to severely maim themselves.
But Jesus’ is using that to get our attention to something important God had given His people a covenant. He had said to them You will be my people… and I will be your God – and the expectations on God’s part was articulated in the Ten Commandments. By following those ten laws, the Lord had said – His people would demonstrate their faithfulness, their love for Him. But people being people; humans being human we always are looking for shortcuts and loopholes… to do the least that we had to do.
Which is why this Gospel is so real – it almost sounds like Jesus is fired up or being sarcastic: like he’s about to say ‘you think you’re being faithful? You think you’re loving my Father by doing what you’re doing? COME ON. Jesus being fully God and fully human is able to speak even more directly to us: Pointing out the inconsistencies, the loopholes we’ve created. How we fool ourselves into thinking that if we were on trial we could say to God – Well Lord, technically we were following your commands… Technically we never took a gun or a knife and “killed” someone – conveniently forgetting the butcher job we did talking about people… Lord, when did I ever commit adultery – me and the people I fooled around with were never married… And so on.
When we think about it – flowers die, candy is digested, cards – stuffed animals – gifts will fade and be discarded, even a night at the theatre will one day simply be a memory. In light of the fullness of life Jesus wants us to have right here, right now… Remembering the promises Jesus is offering us of the eternal life that is to come, what greater gift can we give to those in our lives that we care about not just on Valentines Day, but every day of our lives than to fall deeper in love with Jesus Christ?
Jesus is trying to help us in that pursuit. Moving out of living a relationship that is shallow into a loving relationship. Which is why he uses ridiculous extreme examples like cutting off limbs that could cause us to sin to point out how ridiculous we can be. How we can fall into the trap of simply trying to fulfill an obligation rather than truly express our love. Because in the end, the body part that matters the most to Jesus is our hearts – our giving them completely to him, and He truly possessing them…living in them.