Sixth Sunday after Epiphany + February 12, 2023
PRAYER OF THE DAY
O God, the strength of all who hope in you, because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing good without you. Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do, and give us grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
A Reading from the book of Deuteronomy
Moses said to the people: See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
We will pray Psalm 119 responsively
Happy are they whose way is blameless, who follow the teaching of the LORD!
Happy are they who observe your decrees and seek you with all their hearts,
who never do any wrong, but always walk in your ways.
You laid down your commandments, that we should fully keep them.
Oh, that my ways were made so direct that I might keep your statutes!
Then I should not be put to shame, when I regard all your commandments.
I will thank you with a true heart, when I have learned your righteous judgments.
I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.
A Reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians
Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
THE HOLY GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW THE FIFTH CHAPTER
Jesus said to the disciples: “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”
Once again, we hear Jesus not changing the Law, but restoring it to God’s original intent, to free people from their former slavery, reclaim their identity as beloved, with integrity and dignity, and to form them into the Kingdom of Heaven. As he does in the earlier passage of this chapter in Matthew, he challenges them and us to look beyond “the way it used to be”, beyond a literal interpretation, beyond a cut and dry, black and white, formulaic, concrete interpretation and application, and to immerse themselves, and ourselves, in the divine intent of the Law (and Scripture), to transcend a minimal approach to what we have to do, and what we can avoid, and evolve toward a relational understanding of God’s Word, in which we understand, appreciate, and cherish our own humanity and all we encounter.
Jesus uses the strongest possible language to impress upon us that we must not allow any gift of God, any part of our being, to become an obstacle to our holiness. He goes to great lengths to convince us that nothing is more valuable, more vital to our continued growth in holiness, than our right relationships with God, ourselves, and others.
It is human nature to desire a simple straightforward formula for what we can and cannot do to please God and grow into righteousness, but neither we nor God are static, fixed, concrete objects. In God’s image we are ever evolving, ever changing, ever becoming, and for this, we are grateful. It would be so simple to choose a rigid rule forever carved in stone, but Jesus bids us to choose Life! Amen
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.