Last year while on pilgrimage in Medjugorje, at the first Mass we attended, the main Celebrant was a Fr Joe from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania [available in link in Further Reading]. I remember a couple of things from his Homily. The one most pertinent to today’s scriptures is that he said that people often complain to him that when they go to confession, they end up confessing the same sins. His response speaks volumes about today’s Gospel. He says that the sins we confess repeatedly are what he calls the fruit, and this is because we are not dealing with the root. By this he means what are the root causes of why we commit the sins we commit time after time. These root causes are what he calls the root.

As a Safety Practitioner, this spoke volumes to me. When we investigate an accident, we need to get to the root cause to prevent a recurrence. This is done by many techniques, but one of the simplest methods is to ask why? By the time we have asked why five times we have generally got the root cause. A simple example is why did the person fall? It was slippy. Why was it slippy? There was water on the floor. Why was there water on the floor? Because there was a spillage earlier that wasn’t tidied up. Why wasn’t it tidied up? Because no-one had passed by and was able to notice it. Hopefully you get the idea.

In today’s Gospel Jesus is asking us to tackle the root of the sins which had been prescribed by law. He was saying we are in no position to congratulate ourselves for not killing someone if we allow ourselves to become angry or to strike someone; because we may be in danger of moving down a road where we could eventually kill someone. By tackling our anger or our propensity [tendency] for violence then we can avoid killing someone in future.

It is the same with adultery, it is not enough for us to say we have not committed adultery; we must not look lustfully at someone for it is in the heart that evil takes root and could lead us to a position where we may commit adultery.

Jesus is asking us to be honest with ourselves and with those we love. We should never have to swear an oath to expect someone to believe us. Jesus says we are to say yes, when we mean yes and to say no, when we mean no.

Anger is a thing which I know I need to keep in check. I can become very frustrated with things, one thing in particular is IT. Computers never seem to work when I want them to and my frustrations can come to the surface very quickly. It is a wonder I haven’t broken printers or laptops before now, because they really know how to push my buttons. When I look at the root behind this anger and frustration it highlights the time I have wasted on other things and my dependence on things working first time, when I want them to work, or when I now need them to work, because I have frittered away time on other less important things.

Today’s readings give us a chance to look at our behaviours, in this time which is leading up to the Penitential season of Lent, we can start to ask ourselves about the sins we frequently need to confess, only this time consider are these sins the fruit or the root? What is behind the sin, ask a few why’s? This can really help us to get to know ourselves better.

The first reading reminds us that it is within our power to keep the commandments, emphasising we have free will and an ability to choose between right and wrong.

The psalm tells us that we will be happier following God’s law than any other thing which can only give temporary joy. Eternal joy is found in The Lord.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St Paul speaks of wisdom, a deep wisdom of truth which comes from the Holy Spirit. It is this wisdom which gives us the ability to discern between right and wrong. In our hearts we know when we have sinned, thankfully the Holy Spirit inspires us to repent and confess those sins. Only by confessing can we be truly one with God. Jesus wants what is best for us, that is why He focusses in on the root behind the sins named in the Law of Moses. As Jesus said right at the beginning of this week’s Gospel, He has not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil the law. As we are part of the Body of Christ, we are called to fulfil the law too.

I pray that as we approach Lent, we will all manage to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that we can all continue to allow the Light of the World to shine through us.

Further Reading

English Homily in Medjugorje – MaryTV From homepage, click on ‘playlist’ from there you have access to approx. 800 homilies. You’ll find Fr Joe Freedy’s on the 05/09/2022

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 577-582: Jesus and the Law
CCC 1961-1964 the old Law
CCC 2064-2068: the Decalogue in the tradition of the Church

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The success of the forthcoming pastoral formation programme ‘The Wild Goose’ which we are using as part of the Year of the Holy Spirit.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
  • Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
  • All of our young people preparing for the Sacraments.
  • Those attending our RCIA programme.
  • Abigail who will be baptised in St Bede’s on Sunday 12th February.