The 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
From the Pastor’s Desk
February 19, 2023
“But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you…”
Brothers and Sisters,
Three days to go – these next 72 hours before the official start of Lent on February 22 can be tempting. Should we fill them with eating more sweets, watching more Netflix, or scrolling more on Social Media? Though we might not yet be in the right mindset for Lent, with the season’s increased emphasis on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving,
today’s Gospel reminds us not to wait. The absolute authority of Jesus makes it clear that we were made for more! We must “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [Mt.5:4].
Achieving perfection can seem arduous, and our gut reaction might be one of two extremes (hint: either isn’t beneficial to the end goal). First, Jesus’ request is impossible, so I interpret it as an exaggeration and, therefore, do not even try. Or second, Jesus demands perfection, and anything short of perfection is a complete failure. The following may offer some clarity; as shared in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches with unprecedented authority on how to follow the law from the depths of our being. It’s important to point out that Jesus’ reference to the law and the prophets is yet another way of saying “from the Old Testament” or to those living in Jesus’ day, the Bible or the Word of God. Jesus interprets the law as a minimum and not as the highest standard. And His authoritative interpretation calls us to perfection. Yet this expectation does not mean Jesus desires us to achieve perfection through our knowledge, power, and perseverance alone. Now that would be impossible! Consider reading and praying with the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to prepare for Lent. We’ll hear from this Sermon on Ash Wednesday (please, join us for the Mass and distribution of ashes: 6:30 am, 8:15 am, and 7 pm).
We’ll hear from this Sermon on Ash Wednesday (please, join us for the Mass and distribution of ashes: 6:30 am, 8:15 am, and 7 pm).
After, Jesus will remind us of the value of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and serving God completely. Still, our Lord also reminds us not to be anxious because it’s with His help that we can follow the law and serve with all our hearts, mind, and being.
In support of not waiting to cultivate ongoing spiritual growth, I ask all this Lent, myself included, to make efforts to become more generous. Consider the ways the Lord might be asking you to support the ministries of the Church and our Diocese through the Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries or the ways you can help at the parish level. Learn more at archbalt.org/appeal or pledge at archbalt.org/ministries. The Catechism reminds us that generosity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, meaning it’s one of the measurements of how well we follow the Spirit in our lives. If we live by the Spirit, our lives will bear the fruits of charity, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (Galatians 5:22-23 as quoted by the Catechism, §1832). Sometimes it can be hard to see the good that comes from living a life sustained and guided by the Holy Spirit. If or when you struggle to see the benefit of giving your all for Christ, remind yourself that our God reveals things according to His perfect plan. Then be sure to surround yourself with like-minded people with similar goals, make time for prayer, and tell Jesus of your spiritual goals and that you are trying to be more giving and would like to be a committed disciple who draws on Him for strength. And finally, remember that the path of discipleship (https://olphparish.org/the-path/) is a marathon, not a sprint!
In closing, I pray that this Lent and all year; we may strive to develop a more meaningful expression of generosity to joyfully share the gifts of talent, time, or treasure.