June 17-22: 17 Monday: Mt 5:38-42: “You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.
The context: During their captivity in Egypt, the Jews became familiar with the crude tribal law of retaliation called Lex Talionis (=Tit-for-Tat) given by the ancient lawmaker Hammurabi during the period 2285-2242 BC. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus rejects even the concession of milder retaliation allowed by Moses. In its place, Jesus gives his new law of love and grace and no retaliation.
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Moses instructed the Israelites to follow tit-for-tat retaliation, rather than to wreak total destruction upon their enemies. That is, instead of mutilating or murdering all the members of the offender’s family or tribe, they should discover, then punish by an equal mutilation or harm, only the offender. Later, a milder version of this law was substituted. It demanded monetary compensation, as decided by a judge, in place of physical punishment. Moses also gave the Israelites several laws commanding merciful treatment for the enemy if he also was a Jew (e.g., Lev 19:18).
The true Christian reaction: For Jesus, retaliation, or even limited vengeance, has no place in the Christian life. Jesus illustrates the Christian approach by giving three examples:
1) Turn to him the other cheek: Striking someone on the right cheek (with the right hand), requires striking with the back of one’s hand, and, according to Jewish concepts, the blow inflicts more insult than pain. Jesus instructs his followers to forgive the insult gracefully and convert the offender. 2) “Let him have your cloak as well.” Jesus instructs his followers that they should show more responsibility and a greater sense of duty than to fight for privileges.
3) Go with him two miles. A Christian has the duty of responding, even to seemingly unjust demands by helping or serving gracefully not grudgingly. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19.
June 18 Tuesday: Mt 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The context: Today’s Gospel passage is perhaps the central and the most famous section of the Sermon on the Mount. It gives us the Christian ethic of personal relationship: love one’s neighbors and forgive one’s enemies. Above all, it tells us that what makes Christians different is the grace with which they treat others, interacting with them with loving kindness and mercy, especially when those others don’t deserve it. The Old Law never said to hate enemies, but that was the way some Jews understood it. Jesus commands that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us in order to demonstrate that we are children of a merciful Heavenly Father. From the cross, Jesus prayed for all of those who were crucifying him – which includes all fallen humankind, and so ourselves — saying, ‘Father forgive them; they know not what they do.’” (Lk 23:34). A Christian has no personal enemies. If we only love our friends, we are no different from pagans or atheists.
We need to love our neighbors and our enemies, too: The Greek word used for loving enemies is not storge (affection or natural love towards family members), or philia = friendship (love of close friends), or eros (=romance) (passionate love between a young man and woman), but agápe =unconditional love which is the invincible benevolence or good will for another’s highest good. Since agápe or unconditional love is not natural, practicing it is possible only with God’s help. Agápe love is a choice more than a feeling. We choose to love, not because our enemies deserve our love, but because Jesus loves them so much that he died for them, and they, too, are the children of our God. We have in the Acts of the Apostles the example of St. Stephen, the first martyr, who, like Jesus on the cross, prayed for those who were putting him to death.
Life Messages: We are to try to be perfect, to be like God: 1) We become perfect when we fulfill God’s purpose in creating us: with His help, to become God-like. 2) We become perfect when, with His ongoing help, we try to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives and to show unconditional good will and universal benevolence as God does. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19.
June 19 Wednesday (St. Romuald, Abbot): Mt 6:1-6, 16-18: “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 16 “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The context: In today’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes three cardinal works of religious life in Judaism, namely, almsgiving, prayer and fasting and instructs his followers on the principles underlying these acts of personal piety.
Life Messages: 1) Almsgiving becomes a noble and meritorious religious act when we give to bring glory to God. a) We are to help the poor as an expression of our sharing love, in thanksgiving for the blessings we have received from God. b) But Almsgiving becomes an act of self-glorification when we do it as the Pharisees did, to demonstrate our generosity in public and to get popular acclaim.
2) Fasting becomes a noble act pleasing to God when we do it: a) to experience what the real hunger of the poor is, b) to help the poor better by giving the price of what we do not eat to feed them, c) to discipline ourselves in eating and drinking and d) to appreciate better God’s blessings of good health, good appetite and generous provisions. e) Fasting for show, as the Pharisees did, is wrong and sinful.
3) Prayer: Prayer is opening our connection to God by talking to Him and listening to Him, convinced of His all-pervading holy presence within us and all around us. a) By prayer we acknowledge our total dependence on God, draw from Him our daily spiritual strength and recharge our spiritual batteries from God’s infinite power. b) Long, noisy, repetitious prayer performed in public for show as the Pharisees did is no prayer at all. It is hypocrisy. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19.
June 20 Thursday: Mt 6:7-15: “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 ..15
The context: In today’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs the crowd that they should not pray like the Gentiles, repeating empty phrases. He means that true piety is not so much a matter of the number of words as of the frequency and the love with which the Christian turns towards God in all the events, great or small, of his day. So Jesus teaches a model prayer – Our Father. After we place ourselves in the presence of God our Father, there are seven petitions, the first three theological, for the glory of the Father, which draw us towards Him, and the last four petitionary, as we present our needs to Him and commend ourselves to His grace.
A prayer in two parts: In the first part, we address God, lovingly acknowledging Him as our Heavenly Father, praising and worshipping Him and asking that His Holy Will be done on earth and in our lives as perfectly as it is done in Heaven. In the second part, we ask God for our present needs (daily bread), our past needs (forgiveness of sins) and our future needs (protection against the tempter and his temptations), and we ask for His blessings. In this part we also bring the Trinitarian God into our lives. We bring 1) God the Father, the Provider, by asking for daily bread, 2) God the Son, our Savior, by asking forgiveness for our sins and 3) God the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete Who is our Guide, Advocate, Comforter and Illuminator, by asking for protection and deliverance from evil.
Special stress on the spirit of forgiveness: We are told to ask for forgiveness from others for our offenses against them and to give unconditional forgiveness to others for their offenses against us as a condition for receiving God’s forgiveness. Jesus further clarifies, “If you forgive others their wrongs, your Father in Heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you either” (Mt 6:14-15).
“For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, now and forever. Amen.” The manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew do not contain this phrase, nor do any of the Catholic translations. Martin Luther added this doxology to Our Father in his translation of Matthew’s Gospel, and the King James editions of the Bible keep it. The doxology is actually taken from the Divine Liturgy or Catholic Mass. Known as the final doxology, it takes up the first three petitions to our Father. By the final “Amen,” which means, “So be it”, we ratify what is contained in the prayer that God has taught us. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19.
June 21 Friday (St. Aloysius Gonzaga): Mt 6:19-23: 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
The context: Today’s Gospel passage from the Sermon on the Mount instructs us to amass secure and lasting treasures in Heaven by a life of righteousness on earth, doing the will of God and sharing our blessings with the needy. Jesus uses two metaphors, one explaining the folly of keeping perishable treasures on earth and the other of loving the darkness caused by pride and prejudice.
The image of earthly & heavenly treasures: Man’s heart yearns for a treasure which will give him security and lasting happiness. But treasure in the form of riches very often gives him constant worry because riches can be lost, destroyed or stolen, or his life may be terminated abruptly. The only treasure which will last beyond this life is treasure stored in Heaven. Obtaining and keeping such a treasure is possible only by lovingly and sacrificially sharing God’s blessings with others and leading an upright life doing the will of God with His grace.
The image of sound eye and clear vision: Jesus compares the human eye to a lamp which provides the body with light. St. Thomas Aquinas in his commentary on Mathew gives the following explanation: “The eye refers to motive. When a person wants to do something, he first forms an intention: thus, if your intention is sound – simple and clear—that is to say, if it is directed towards God, your whole body (that is, all your actions), will be sound, sincerely directed towards good.” Bad eyesight is also a Biblical metaphor for stupidity and spiritual blindness. Such blindness is caused by pride, prejudice, jealousy, hatred, etc., which would destroy our fair judgment.
Life message: 1) Let us spend our lives here on earth doing good for others without being blinded by pride and prejudice; in this way, we will store up everlasting treasures in Heaven. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19.
June 22 Saturday (St. Paulinus of Nola, Bishop; John Fisher, Bishop; Thomas More, Martyrs): Mt 6. 24-34: the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
The context: Today’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount instructs us to serve God alone as our Master. We are to avoid worries and anxiety by placing our trusting Faith in the providence and care of a loving God and by living one day at a time in God’s presence.
Impossibility of serving two opposing masters: Man’s ultimate goal and Master is God and not material possessions. We cannot serve both at the same time. Material possessions, when we share them with others, become a means to reach our ultimate goal.
Jesus’ arguments against unnecessary worries: 1) Worry is a pagan or an irreligious attitude of those who don’t believe in a loving and providing God. 2) In nature, other creatures (like birds), work hard for their daily food, but they don’t worry about tomorrow’s food. 3) Worry is useless because we cannot increase even an inch of height by days of worrying. 4) Worry is injurious to one’s health because it causes physical and mental problems and illnesses.
Life Messages: How to avoid worry: 1) Trust in the providence of a loving God. 2) Acquire the art of living one day at a time without worrying over the dead past, the living present or the unknown future. 3) Seek God’s kingdom by doing His will every day and live a righteous life obeying God’s law. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)19.