February 16, 2020.

Jesus said in the Gospel of today, (Mt 5:17-37), “do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to complete them”. The Law and the Prophets are two of the three corner stones on which the Old Testament hinges. The third being the Writings. The Law is mostly found in the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the books of Moses or the Pentateuch – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. We have four major writing prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel and twelve minor writing prophets which include Amos, Jonah, Hosea, Joel, Micah and Habakkuk. Some prophets do not have a book in the bible ascribed to their name like prophet Elijah. The Writings include the books of Psalms, Job, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, (from which the first reading of today is taken), and Proverbs. In the evening of the day of his resurrection, Jesus asked two of his disciples who were on their way to Emmaus to recall “the words” he had spoken to them while he was still with them, that everything written about him “in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled” (Lk 24:44). In the above quotation, Jesus used the book of Psalms to represent all the books contained in the Writings.
The Gospel of today is part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount which showed him as the new lawgiver. For Jesus, although external observance of the law is important, it is however, grossly inadequate. One ought to be a man/woman of character by nurturing a heart that seeks to do God’s will and God’s will only. Thus, while calling people to a life of holiness which the first reading demanded, (Sir 15:15-20), and which the Pharisees and the Scribes tried to emulate, he criticised them for being more conscious of external observances, (legalism), than a truly conversion of heart.
For Jesus, discipleship is a way of life, that is, a habitual attitude toward doing good and being mindful of the needs of one’s neighbour. Hence, we must not rest on our oars because we have not slain anyone; we must also ensure that no one is maligned by us. To falsely drag the reputation of someone in the mud may be worse than taking the life of the person. At times, people have taken their own lives because their reputation had been wrongly destroyed. We should be careful about gossips, because words spoken cannot be taken back! However, if you have a hunch that something is not right, especially if it pertains to the safety of a child, you should not keep such hunch to yourself, contact a member of the Parish Child Safety Committee.
A married man may say I have never committed adultery, but if another woman is occupying a space in his heart as much as his wife, there is something wrong. Since little drops of water make an ocean, one should work hard to nip sin in the bud. Love in married life must be renewed. It is not static. Little things like a pat on the back, affirming and forgiving each other can make a huge difference.
When we feel hurt due to a disappointment or betrayal, we should lament as people of hope, because the Lord said that vengeance is His, (Deut 32:35). At times it may be very difficult for us to immediately forgive those who offended us, due to the depth of the hurt. In such circumstances, do not force yourself to forgive. Gradually dispose your heart to forgive and to accept forgiveness when you are ready. Our gaze should remain on our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ who though he experienced betrayal, cried out before his death on the cross, “Lord forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”, (Lk 23:34).
The law of Christ draws us not only to the external observances of the law but to a personal relationship with Jesus and respect for our brothers and sisters and to a deeper understanding that what God wants is mercy not merely sacrifices, (Hosea 6:6).
Today, as we undertake the annual commissioning of the members of the Parish Pastoral Council and staff at our two Parish Schools, (St Francis Xavier and St Augustine Primary Schools), we should be mindful that the Holy Spirit has endowed the members of the Church of Christ with different gifts which include apostles, prophets, teachers and so on.
The members of the Parish Pastoral Council help the Parish Priest in the pastoral care of the Parish by giving him constructive advice. They represent different aspects of the Parish life which include worship, Education, hospitality and outreach.
Teaching is a vocation for which those who are called should regard themselves as fortunate. To teach in a Catholic school means that you have been called to become evangelisers. Through what you do and say, you proclaim the word of God by nurturing the young minds in the Christian way of life. What the ordaining prelate says to the Deacon at his ordination when he hands him the bible is also relevant to you teachers: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practise what you teach.” Teachers ought to be good role models to the students. Since children learn more through observation, ensure that your actions are congruent with your words.
To our year four students who are committing themselves today to follow the Parish Sacramental Programme as they prepare to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist, we pray that this programme will lead them to a better understanding and appreciation of their Catholic faith. We thank their parents and guardians who have signed up to be their prop throughout the duration of this programme.

Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp

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