6th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 12 February 2023 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Sirach 15: 15-20; Responsorial: Psalm119; II: I Corinthians 2: 6-10; Gospel: Matthew 5: 17-37

Mount Sinai & Beatitude Mount.

It was Mt. Sinai from which the great prophet Moses received the 10 Commandments and the full Mosaic Law as God led the Hebrew people from the bondage of Egypt to the Promised Land. It established the dispensation of God’s Law and the obedience to which God called the Israelites to live. The location is generally recognized as being in the southern Sinai peninsula towering above the harsh dry desert as a harsh flinty monolith overseeing the wilderness.

Beatitude Mount is the location believed to be where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount as he began his earthly ministry. The actual location has been open for debate since early times. A traditional spot is atop Beatitude Mount overlooking the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum. It is in some ways significant that the true location from where Jesus proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount is not known. As it signifies the leading of God from temporal perspectives to life in the Spirit.

The two mounts, Sinai and Beatitude are essential for our relationship with God and our faith. Sinai with the hard, clear certainty of the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament Covenant of the Law is in many ways the bedrock of faith and morals. While Beatitude Mount proclaims the heart of the New Testament Covenant of grace and Spirit brought through Jesus Christ.

And the Holy Spirit would bring us to explore and grow in God’s grace and Spirit as we prepare for the blessed season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is just a week and a half away. Let us follow our Lord to these two mountains and prepare for a Lent of Renewal and Rebuilding, a Renewal of the Eucharistic Presence in our faith and church, and the Rebuilding of our church.

Recent years have brought many trials and challenges for everyone, especially for the church. The wounds of scandal, the pandemic pierced both attendance and participation of the faithful and the ongoing strife of worldly politics entangled with religious strife all have brought the church to need rebuilding repair and maintenance. Numerous moral issues bring the faithful to struggle through difficult moral discernments in the quest for true discipleship. And the massive changes in our culture, communications, and society have brought immense impact upon what we have known as…the church. All this applies to every level of the church, the people of God. From the highest levels of clergy, our parishes, families, and our individual places in the living Body of Christ share this need for Renewal and Rebuilding. So whether it be major repairs and rebuilding, ongoing maintenance, or the rebuilding and remodeling of our faith to grow with God we need to allow our Lord to bring us to these two mountains so that His holy work may grow.

Our Bible readings for this Sunday are powerfully focused on the spiritual reality of these two mountains. The first reading from the book of Sirach with the power and promise shared in the Responsorial of Psalm 119 makes clear that God calls us to keep the Commandments of God’s kingdom. This very basic purpose and design of God, our obedience, is essential if we are to grow as God’s dwelling and experience the indescribable blessings God prepares for the faithful.

All this comes into sharp focus in our Gospel reading from the heart of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Jesus reviews and affirms that unshakeable place of the Law and the Prophets in the lives of those who seek to know and follow God. But Jesus makes an extraordinary statement in this segment. He states without any uncertainty that he did not come to abolish the Law. Then He states he has come to fulfill all the Law and teachings of the prophets. That fulfillment, that realization of the Old Testament Law of Mt. Sinai brings us to the New Testament Mount of the Beatitudes, of the Sermon on the Mount.

The Gospel reading shares many distinctive points that Jesus makes about the old and the new. Jesus addresses the unchanging expectation of God of our faithful obedience. He then proceeds to speak of very specific issues and seems to expand the law into ever more impossible realms. We are told killing is wrong. Then Jesus expands that into basic anger. The common reality of calling someone “A fool” is shown to be perilous. And the passionate expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation are stated with no real room for argument. And matters of adultery, divorce and marriage are addressed, again with deep clarity. It is clear the standards of Christ’s Kingdom shared on Beaittude Mount are more intense than all of the teachings of Moses.

This could well lead us to despair. If we are honest we recognize that our weaknesses and sins are seemingly insurmountable. But it as as we allow the Holy Spirit to calm our fears and lead us to the true heights of this Mount of Blessing we see our hope and our calling.

Mt Sinai was indeed focused upon what would be known as the Law of Moses. But that revelation given to Moses was about much more. It was about God’s Presence and the Rebuilding of the worship of the Hebrew people. It would be the Shekinah glory that would accompany and lead them through the wilderness. And God would lead them to build both the place and the designs of their worship that would culminate in the great Temple in Jeruslaem.

Beatitude Mount fulfills that same design for this new covenant. From the 10 Commandments Jesus brings us to the Ten Beatitudes. He provides the map of soul and spirit that will lead Him and His followers to Passion Week. In the culmination of the Passover on Holy Thursday we see Jesus give His Eucharistic Presence in the Body and Blood of Christ, His Real Presence to whom we are being called to Renewal. And in this same message Christ also affirms our calling to Rebuild His Church, the people of God. It is sadly, no mistake that the message of the Gospel today focuses on the brokeness of relationships, with each other, with God, in hearts and in homes. Great is the need, the call to rebuild. Even greater are the designs and the resources and provisions of God for this holy task. One of the great blessings this two-fold quest is the discovery and realiztion of God’s surprises of promise and provision.

Today, these days prior, and especially during Lent let us each, and together, seek Jesus, in the Eucharist, His Word and each other and begin our renewal in Christ. May we then grow in our commitment to share in the Rebuilding of the Church, our hearts, our homes and our parish as a dwelling vibrant for God.

This would remind us of another time and place where the people of God had been led by the Holy Spirit. It was after the great dispersion faithful Jes had been brought back to Jerusalem. God city that lay in ruiins. With immense needs and assaults by the enemies of God that struggled with what seemed and impossible calling. But it was in that time of seeming defeat they were given a time of thanksgiving and praise. And they were given a cricial promise that applies to this very day. “The joy of the Lord will be our strength, ” (Neh 8:10). It would our Lord who would later teach us all that this is His commandment, that we love one another, that our joy would be full’ ( John 15:12).

An altar server lifts up a broken crucifix as he and others clear debris from the altar area of the partially destroyed Metropolitan Cathedral in Palo, Phillippines, Nov. 15 in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. The cathedral is one of many Catholic churches, schools and convents damaged or destroyed in the powerful storm. (CNS photo/Wolfgang Rattay, Reuters)