YEAR A: HOMILY FOR 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – 12TH FEBRUARY
Theme: Vacuum Cleaner
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
An old lady heard a knock on her door, and when she opened, she saw a well-dressed young man carrying a vacuum cleaner. “Good morning,” said the young man. “If you can give me a couple of minutes, I would like to demonstrate how this latest high-powered vacuum cleaner works.” ”Go away!” said the old lady. ”I’m broke. I have no money!” She was about to close the door, but the young man quickly slipped inside the house and implored, ”Please allow me to do my demonstration.” And before she could say a word, he emptied a pail of horse manure onto the carpet in the living room. YEAR A: HOMILY FOR 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
“Now,” he said, beaming with confidence, “if this vacuum cleaner does not take away all traces of this horse manure from your carpet, Madam, I will personally eat what is left behind.” The old lady was unimpressed. She went to the kitchen and came back with a spoon. She said to the young man, “Here, you may need to use this spoon,” she said. “I told you I have no money, and I could not pay my bills. This morning they just cut off my electricity.”
We like vacuum cleaners because they can clean so thoroughly and take all dirt and dust in the house. This is somehow similar to what Jesus came to do – to cleanse us thoroughly inside and out. He has come to take away all kinds of sin – in thought, in word, in deed and in our omissions. He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Nevertheless, that is only half of his mission. The other half is more important. After taking away all sins, he desires to establish God’s kingdom in the world, beginning in the hearts of each one of us. Now, this second part is what many people have not been able to fully comprehend.
There are many of us who think that following Jesus simply consists in avoiding sin and evil. This is quite easy. It is the way of minimalism. This is expressed in the legalistic mentality. Such a person believes that he can be saved by simply following the letter of the law. But God is not pleased with the minimum and the lukewarm.
Jesus made it clear to his listeners: “I did not come to abolish the law and the prophets.” He did not come to give a new law. The entire Old Testament writings are definitely true expressions of God’s will. However, the limitations of the human language and understanding gave rise to many mistaken ideas and beliefs. That is why Jesus said, “I came not to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” He came to correct those mistaken notions and improve their understanding of God’s true will. He came to show us the way of total and unconditional obedience to the will of God.
But most importantly, he has come, not only to give us essential teachings, but also to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. He has come to give us Himself. Hence, he taught with authority for he himself is the fulfillment of God’s law. He solemnly proclaimed: “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).
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In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus taught that fulfilling God’s law is not only by obeying the letter of the law, but more importantly, by living the true spirit of the law, which is love. After all, God’s commands are given to us, not to burden us, but to help us learn the way of love, and become members of the family of God. Everything boils down to the heart, for God looks into the heart. Love, indeed, should be the sole motivation and driving force in our life.
The Sermon on the Mount of Jesus aims to deepen our faith by purifying the motivations of our hearts. For instance, worshipping God is not only a matter of bringing offerings to the altar. Rather, it is more of being totally pleasing in the eyes of God. So, “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23-24). He knows that anger leads to murder, and “whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:22). We come to Mass every Sunday, but it could be that some of us still hold grudges and vengeful feelings against somebody.
Harboring ill feelings in our hearts is not only harmful to our spiritual and physical health, but it also renders our prayers and worship ineffective and useless. Tertullian, one of the Fathers of the Church, said, “But how foolish is it either to pass a day without prayer because you won’t make up with your brother or to lose your prayer because you’re still angry?”
Furthermore, following Jesus is not just a matter of avoiding sin, but also calls us to do something more radical, by uprooting sin from our hearts. This is the symbolic meaning of his shocking words about cutting one’s hand and taking out one’s eye. Just as love starts from the heart, so also sin. Jesus said, “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile” (Mk 7:21-23).
It is, therefore, very important that we always purify our hearts and minds, and give no chance for sin to come in and take root in our lives. In this regard, the practice of daily examination of conscience is very helpful. And, needless to say, a more frequent trip to sacramental confession is in order. Truly, we need the help of Jesus. He is our spiritual vacuum cleaner. He wants to cleanse us thoroughly, to purify the inside of our hearts and every bit of our being so that we will become worthy of our dignity as children of God, truly pleasing in the eyes of our heavenly Father. Jesus has come to take away all sins, and to establish God’s kingdom in the hearts of His people who have learned to love as he did.
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