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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

6th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we celebrate the 6th Sunday of ordinary time along with that we also celebrate World Day of Prayer for the sick which takes place each year on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes February 11th. Here in our parish we will have the anointing of the sick and the blessing of the carers on Sunday afternoon.  We pray for all those who are sick at this time and we pray for all those who care for them family members, friends, doctors, nurses, care assistants and the priests of our parishes along with the priests religious and lay people who are our hospital chaplains.

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us that he has come to fulfil the law not to abolish or replace it. When he introduced the New Law of the Kingdom of God Jesus said something that was absolutely shocking to those heard what he told them that the holiness of the people had to surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees. How could anyone be holier than the Pharisees who were supposed to be holy men”! They dressed well, they fasted said their prayers loudly for all to hear. But Jesus said that his followers had to be holier than the Pharisees. How could that be possible as they were the people that everyone held up as being good. Jesus explains, our external actions must be a reflection of what we are really like. If what we do is not a reflection of who we are, then we are hypocrites. Hypocrite, is the word that Jesus uses over and over to describe the Pharisees.

They were considered the righteous and holy ones who in truth were neither righteous or holy in so many ways.  Jesus’ challenge was not only to his followers, but to the Pharisees and scribes as well. Their religious faith was to go deeper than exterior works – the right motives were supposed  to support right behaviour. His demands are high indeed! They seem impossible to achieve. The Pharisee spent a lot of time and energy fulfilling the Law like so many people today the law was more important than compassion. They were of the middle class and unlike the desperately poor, who were most of Jesus’s followers, the Pharisees had the education and leisure to pursue purity of observance. What chance did the illiterate, overworked and burdened poor followers of Jesus have? For that matter, what chance do we have in fulfilling these teachings? And yet, Jesus calls for a holiness that surpasses those scribes and Pharisees the people who stuck by the letter of the law instead of the compassion of God! Jesus’ demands are more radical; his vision sharper; his expectations greater When we see our own record of doing good against the demands of Jesus in the Gospel, we can all come away feeling helpless. Our own efforts look so shabby against the clear unambiguous demands of the larger vision. May we be courageous in taking up the challenge that Jesus gives each one of us today that is the call to holiness living our lives so that people will see that we are faith filled people who live our lives with the compassion of God for those around us in our hearts.

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