SEXAGESIMA – Sunday 16 February 2020 – Ready for Lent and Easter.

(Latin sexagesima, sixtieth) is the eighth Sunday before Easter and the second before Lent. The Ordo Romanus, Alcuin, and others count the Sexagesima from this day to Wednesday after Easter. The name was already known to the Fourth Council of Orléans in 541. For the Greeks and Slavs it is Dominica Carnisprivii, because on it they began, at least to some extent, to abstain from meat. The Synaxarium calls it Dominica secundi et muneribus non corrupti adventus Domini. To the Latins it is also known as “Exsurge” from the beginning of the Introit. The statio was at Saint Paul’s outside the walls of Rome, and hence the oratio calls upon the doctor of the Gentiles. The Epistle is from Paul, 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, describing his suffering and labours for the Church. The Gospel (Luke 8) relates the falling of the seed on good and on bad ground, while the Lessons of the first Nocturn continue the history of man’s iniquity, and speak of Noah and of the Deluge. (See Septuagesima.)

‘Awake! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Rise up! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face; why forget our pain and misery? For our soul has been humiliated in the dust; our belly is pressed to the earth. Rise up, help us! Redeem us in your mercy.’ (Psalm 44:24-27, Introit for Sexagesima Sunday)

The religious ideal of the devout Jews consisted in observing the law, through which the will of God was realised. Meditating, fulfilling the law, was for Israel the “inheritance”, “a lamp for my path”, his “refuge”, his “peace” (cf. Psalm 119).

Jesus is the fullness of the law because he is the definitive word of the Father (Hebrews 1:1). Paul tells us that “…love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8-10).

And it is also in this sense that Jesus is the fullness of every word that comes from the mouth of God: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).

Gesu seminaThe Christian is first of all the disciple of Jesus, not the one who fulfils the law. The Pharisees were obsessed with the literal and meticulous realisation of the law; but they had completely lost their spirit. Hence the word of Jesus: “If your justice does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees …”.

Love is not first of all a widespread feeling to always do what we want, but on the contrary the engine of the service of others, according to divine designs. And this is why Jesus enumerates six cases of daily life — we will see the first three today — in which this concrete love manifests itself: reconciliation with others, not being angry, not insulting anyone, not committing adultery even in desire, avoiding the pity even if you are fond of it as to your own eye or right hand, do not get divorced from a valid marriage …

The contrast with the criteria that govern the current world could not be greater. What values would Christians bet on? Once again we are comforted by the affirmation of Christ: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

There are two ways of understanding the law. It can be assumed that the law, each law, is a kind of ‘photograph’ of reality, which takes note of factual data and recognises its innate dynamics, crystallising relations and dynamics in categorical and generalising statements. This vision is good for physics and mathematical sciences, and pushes man’s curiosity to understand how the creation that surrounds us is organised, from the immensity of the relationships between the galaxies to the fascinating game of minute reciprocal conditionings between the particles. Small matter.

For some, this would be the appropriate way to legislate also in relations between men and peoples. Photographing the world in this way, however, means accepting a defect of freedom and imagination. It would mean renouncing to understand that the obvious, in the relationships between people, does not necessarily correspond to the essential, to the deepest truth, to the intimacy of the human being. Because if all creatures are “good”, man and woman are instead “very good”. That is, we have an extra gear, dictated precisely by being in the image and likeness of God.

Even for Israel, and especially for its leaders, scribes and Pharisees, the Law of God risks being reduced to a canonisation of the surface of our ways of reacting and implementing. It seems that angry anger and passionate sensuality can be justified, limiting itself to containing the damages that could have negative repercussions on those who cause them. It seems that “do not kill” and “do not commit adultery” are perceived as protective rules for the man who, if he succumbed to these enticements, would pay unpleasant consequences for himself, risking to feed the revenge and retaliation of others dragged by the own passions.

Today more than ever we run the risk of understanding the law as an insignificant countersignature to each person’s egocentric claims, neglecting the effort of discernment that delves into man’s depth. It seems that the general axiom (which paradoxically in turn becomes law) seems to be valid that what the majority feels must become norms, without questioning how much this “common feeling” corresponds to the authentic vocation of the person.

Because in reality there is a second way of understanding the law. It becomes like the banks of a river, which allow running water to be contained and to flow towards the goal that awaits it. The rules and commandments make the person orientate himself to his truth, just as the banks of the river allow him to be a river, and avoid the water to disperse, that is, to disappear and die.

In order to be able to understand and taste the orientations of the Law in this way, even when the violence of water, that is, of the vital energy that is in us, collides with the hardness of the rock that contains it and suffers from it, it is necessary to have a look brave to recognise the beauty of our identity as children.

This is how Jesus sees us, calling us to be? Perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Jesus wants the river to flow into the sea, which is his natural calling. And for this he grasps the Law not as an obstacle, but as a pedagogue (as Paul will call it) which promises fulfilment to our thirst for happiness. There is a need to patiently and perseverance walk the roads of the limit to be able to land at the infinite of the ocean, which awaits our gushing waters making us taste drops of its beauty!

Therefore, no commandment is caught by Jesus in his sphere of prohibition. Instead, it becomes a container of enormous potential, often unexpressed. Thus, when one learns to accept and redirect anger, one becomes capable of infectious sweetness and meekness, making courageous and tireless choices of peace. When you learn to deal with your fear of being abandoned and rediscover the tenderness of your need for affection, you become capable of transforming diversity into a meeting place, a bold step of overcoming to savour the mystery of the other, both in marriage, as in consecrated chastity that becomes friendship. When we accept that we are not the centre of the world, beacon and measure of the laws of life, we welcome with disarming and liberating abandonment the presence of a God who does not reason from worldly guarantees, but renews the miracle of trust towards us to make ourselves capable of firm and credible truth.

Prayer of the faithful

God has left us free to choose, but He never leaves us alone. He continually proposes to walk with him and always hopes for our ‘yes’. Let us pray together and say: Lord, help us choose the good.

  1. Because our creativity can always find new solutions to demonstrate our faith in you to the world. Let’s pray.
  2. Because we always know that the best way to be fair is to open up to your Word. Let’s pray.
  3. Because we always seek true wisdom which is never a presumption of knowing or a desire to possess. Let’s pray.
  4. Because we entrust to you the judgment on us and our brothers, and not on our criteria or our hardened heart. Let us pray.

O Father, you revealed to us, in the resurrection of your Son, that the choice of love also survives death. Help us not to be afraid to choose to follow his example. We ask you through Christ our Lord.