February 12, 2023 — Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
SIR 15:15-20; PS 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 COR 2:6-10; MT 5:17-37 OR 5:20-22A, 27-28, 33-34A, 37
Today’s readings challenge us to reflect on the true state of our hearts as it relates to stewardship. Do we think of stewardship as something we take care of once a year, simply a matter of ticking off boxes on a commitment card — or do we choose to embrace it as a spirituality and way of life that allows us to grow in conformity to Christ every day?
Our first reading, from the book of Sirach, teaches that our good God has given us freedom to make this choice: “If you choose you can keep the commandments.” “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”
What great dignity the Father bestows on us that He does not force us to commit to Him — rather He allows us the freedom to choose Him, even though He emphatically does not want us to reject Him through selfishness and sin. (We read at the end of this passage, “No one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin.”)
Our second reading, from Corinthians, reminds us of the great joy that will be ours if we do choose to commit to God by the way we live our lives. “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard… what God has prepared for those who love him.” Our Heavenly Father is more eager than we can comprehend to fill us with His grace and blessings.
But we must choose Him. How do we do this? By keeping His commandments as our first reading instructs — by putting the teachings of our Lord and the Church into practice every day,
The concept of stewardship helps us to live out the fundamental choice to put God first. Stewardship is not meant to be a mere external exercise in which we participate on an occasional basis. It is meant to be embraced as a way of life a life that involves a continuous conversion of heart.
In our Gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus illustrates the difference between an external observance of the law and a true conversion of heart. He says to His disciples, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and Pharisees were the spiritual heavyweights of their day. They checked all the boxes when it came to the proper exercise of the religious practices required of them. Yet our Lord says it wasn’t enough.
Why? They did not allow those practices to penetrate their hearts and change them internally. Jesus explains with a further illustration saying, “You have heard that it was said… you shall not kill… But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.”
Our Lord is asking us not only for exterior acts, but for a true change of heart. In stewardship terms that means seeing everything as a gift from Him, to be used for His glory and the good of others.
In the week ahead let us examine the state of our hearts to ask ourselves if we have chosen to allow stewardship to become a way of life for us. Only then we will experience its true depth and heart-changing possibilities. The choice is ours.