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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 12, 2023

Today’s Invitation

Today we invite you to explore Jesus’s parables as a way to raise consciousness among the poor; engage the Catholic Church’s stated tenets of Catholic social teaching, and their undeniable message of solidarity; and think about the embodied wisdom of solidarity that the Amazon Labor Union and the Poor People’s Campaign bring to the world.

Commentary by Tess Gallagher Clancy

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1

Sirach 15:15-20

You are free to keep the Commandments;
it is in your power to be faithful.
YHWH has placed fire and water before us all:
each must choose one.
We have before us life and death;
we are to choose which we prefer.
For YHWH’s wisdom is immense; it is all-powerful, all-seeing;
YHWH sees everything in all creation;
nothing escapes YHWH’s eyes.
No one has YHWH’s permission to sin;
none is given the strength to tell lies.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 119

Response: Happy are they who walk in Your Law.

Happy are they whose way is blameless, / who walk in Your Law.
Happy are they who observe Your decrees, / who seek You with all their heart.
R: Happy are they who walk in Your Law.

You have commanded that Your precepts / be diligently kept.
Oh, that I might be firm in the ways / of keeping Your statutes!
R: Happy are they who walk in Your Law.

Be good to Your faithful one, / that I may live and keep Your words.
Open my eyes, / that I may consider the wonders of Your Law.
R: Happy are they who walk in Your Law.

Instruct me, O God, in the way of Your statutes, / that I may exactly observe them.
Give me discernment, that I may observe Your Law / and keep it with all my heart.
R: Happy are they who walk in Your Law.

Reading 2

1 Corinthians 2:6-10

Still, there is a certain wisdom
that we express among the spiritually mature.
It is not a wisdom of this age, however,
nor of the rulers of this age,
who are headed for destruction.
No, what we utter is God’s wisdom: a mysterious, hidden wisdom.
God planned it before all ages for our glory.
None of the rulers of this age knew the mystery;
if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Sovereign of Glory.
Of this wisdom it is written,
“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard,
nor has it so much as dawned on anyone
what God has prepared for those who love God.”
Yet God has revealed this wisdom to us
through the Holy Spirit who searches out all things,
even the deep things of God.


Matthew 5:17-37

Jesus said to the disciples,
“Do not think I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets.
I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them.
The truth is, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter of the Law, not the smallest part of a letter,
will be done away with until it is all fulfilled.
That is why whoever breaks the least significant of these commands and teaches others to do the same
will be called least in the kindom of heaven.
Whoever fulfills and teaches these commands
will be called great in the kindom of Heaven.
“I tell you, unless your sense of justice
surpasses that of the religious scholars and the Pharisees,
you will not enter the kindom of heaven.
“You have heard that our ancestors were told,
‘No killing’ and ‘Every murderer will be subject to judgment.’
But I tell you that everyone who is angry with sister or brother
is subject to judgment.
Anyone who says to sister or brother, ‘I spit in your face!’
will be subject to the Sanhedrin;
and anyone who vilifies them with name-calling
will be subject to the fires of Gehenna.
“If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember
that your sister or brother has a grudge against you,
leave your gift there at the altar.
Go be reconciled to them, and then come and offer your gift.
“Lose no time in settling with your opponents.
Do so while still on the way to the courthouse with them.
Otherwise your opponents may hand you over to the judge,
and the judge hand you over to the bailiff, who will throw you into prison.
I warn you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
“You have heard the commandment,  ‘No committing adultery.’
But I tell you that those who look lustfully at others
have already committed adultery with them in their hearts.
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away.
It’s better to lose part of your body
than to have it all cast into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away!
It’s better to lose part of your body
than to have it all cast into Gehenna.
“It was also said,  ‘Whenever a couple divorces, each partner must get a decree of divorce.’
But I tell you that everyone who divorces — except because of adultery —
forces the spouse to commit adultery.
Those who marry a divorced person also commit adultery.
“Again, you have heard that our ancestors were told,
‘Do not break your vow; fulfill all oaths made to Our God.’
But I tell you do not swear oaths at all.
Do not swear by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
do not swear by the earth, for it is God’s footstool.
Do not swear by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great Ruler.
And do not swear by your own head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Say ‘Yes’ when you mean ‘Yes’
and ‘No’ when you mean ‘No.’
Anything beyond that is from the Evil One.”

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



The struggle for the justice of right relationship with each other and the earth

To understand what the Bible has to say to us, we need some context for the world in which the ancient Israelites lived. New Testament scholar William R. Herzog helps us understand Jesus’s mission under the rule of the Roman Empire, while giving us a new way to understand Jesus’s parables as tools to raise a consciousness of resistance among the poor of Galilee. Herzog demonstrates how Jesus’s mission, taught in one small corner of the Roman Empire, teaches a wisdom of solidarity and human wellbeing that transcends time and place.

In Herzog’s book, Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed, he describes the class stratification in Jesus’s world. He writes, “Advanced agrarian societies were two-tiered. The top tier was occupied by the ruler, the ruling class, retainers, and a few merchants. The bottom tier was occupied by peasants, artisans, merchants, the unclean, the degraded, and, at the very bottom, the lowest of the low, the expendables,” (58-9). The peasantry made up about 70 percent of Jewish society, while the expendables ranged from five to 15 percent, depending on economic conditions.

Under Rome, members of the top tier found themselves constantly locked in struggle to remain there, and move up the ranks. Ruling from afar, the Romans appointed regional and local overseers to manage their various kingdoms, many of whom were locals, like Herod Antipas, the Jewish ruler of Galilee during Jesus’s life. This temptation, to ally with the Roman overlords at the expense of their own people, was one of Jesus’s major targets in the parables of the New Testament. He disdained this behavior from upper class members of the Jewish community, and those who prioritized strict adherence to rules and priestly authority, like some Pharisees and Sadducees.

Herzog explains how Jesus’s parables were a liberatory teaching tool for the Jewish peasants he spoke to – using oral stories, a common cultural practice, to help them realize the economic hierarchy and elite-controlled nature of their oppression. Herzog rejects the idea that most parables show a “God” character and a “human” character. Instead, he explains how they often showed characters or behaviors that Jewish peasants would easily understand as belonging to the social classes, or the dynamics between classes.

In Matthew 5, our Gospel reading for today, Jesus lays out his principles for the parables that precede and follow the passage. Jesus tells his disciples that he has not come to abolish the law of the Jewish people, but to fulfill the dictates of the reign of God, as laid out in the Hebrew Bible. These dictates concern the treatment of one another in solidarity, fellowship, and mutual wellbeing for the community, rather than selling out to Rome, or only looking out for themselves in their mutually precarious lives. It’s important to understand that these principles are about acting with solidarity and integrity so as to survive, and to be in right relationship with one another. 

Our second reading for today from 1 Corinthians 2 tells a similar story. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to an early Christian community in Corinth, as they struggled to maintain a well-functioning community. Written in the first century AD, just a few decades after Jesus’s death, Paul writes to communities made up of both Gentiles and Jews. His task is to translate Jesus’s interpretation of Hebrew scripture to these mixed communities, who are still living under Roman Empire. Paul gives instructions on how to proceed in moral matters, including the personal lives of members, and the treatment of the poor in the community. His aim is similar to Jesus’s in the parables: to create a community and a world that seeks something greater than the whims of the ruling classes. 

This message connects the struggles of Jesus’s time to Paul’s and to ours – the struggle for the justice of right relationship with each other and the earth that is an ageless wisdom. Solidarity with each other is this ageless wisdom. As our first reading for today, from Sirach says: “Before [humans] are life and death, good and evil, whichever [they] choose shall be given [them],” (Sir. 15:17). In self preservation alone there is death, and in solidarity is the wisdom of life.

Commentary by Tess Gallagher Clancy

Tess Gallagher Clancy was born and raised in western Montana on Salish land, in an Irish American family. She thinks a lot about land, place, belonging, and labor. She has a Master of Divinity in theology and social ethics. You can find more of her writing at

Engage Catholic Social Teaching


To explore what Catholic social teaching has to say about the transcendent wisdom of solidarity and the wellbeing of life, we first need to understand what Catholic social teaching is. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishop (USCCB) describe Catholic social teaching on their website as:

…a central and essential element of our faith. Its roots are in the Hebrew prophets who announced God’s special love for the poor and called God’s people to a covenant of love and justice. It is a teaching founded on the life and words of Jesus Christ, who came “to bring glad tidings to the poor…liberty to captives… recovery of sight to the blind”(Lk 4:18-19), and who identified himself with “the least of these,” the hungry and the stranger (cf. Mt 25:45). Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor. This commitment arises from our experiences of Christ in the eucharist.

The USCCB also lists some papal and U.S. Bishops’ documents they consider foundational to Catholic social teaching. Finally, the USCCB notes that the seven themes of Catholic social teaching are: life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community, and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God’s creation.

So, given the focus on social justice and right relationship, how do Catholic social teaching’s themes apply to many of the Vatican and the U.S. Bishops’ decisions about justice, and the Church’s role? A criticism of many institutional writings on justice is that they have historically existed to temper social movements: That, for example, as labor becomes organized and more militant, the Church pushes for basic rights for workers so that workers will not push hard enough to destabilize the existing social order. Essentially, the institutional Church usually aims for reforms rather than a reversal of the social order. 

The Hebrew scriptures, in which Catholic social teaching grounds itself, the mission of Jesus of Nazareth, and the seven tenets the Church has identified for our modern lives make a tall order for Catholics today. Jesus, a Jewish man who was well versed in Hebrew scripture, called for the fulfillment of a clear law of justice in the reversal of the hierarchical social order, and the state executed him for this message.

The institutional Catholic Church is a human creation, bound by the limitations that come with struggling to maintain power and relevance in a cutthroat and inhumane economic and social world. The Church also holds the jewels of Catholicism: Its deep and ancient connection to thousands of years of human struggle, and the through line of God’s wisdom that binds life across time and place, across past, present, and future.

So, as we consider the institutional Church, let us know its own professed tenets, and be clear and precise about the reasons we remain drawn to Catholicism. From that knowing, we as the laity, we as the people, can proclaim what those messages necessitate in our world.


A Contemplative Exercise

Find a comfortable position to let your body breathe freely and relax for a couple minutes. Make sure your ribcage is straight so you can draw deep, full breaths.

Focus on your breathing. Don’t manipulate it – let it rise and fall naturally. Let your body breathe itself.

Bring your attention to the top of your head. Allow your attention to move down your face, down the back of your head, into your neck, into your collarbone and shoulders. Feel your shoulders relax.

Move from your shoulders into your chest. Feel your breath rise and fall in your chest. What sensations or feelings are there?

Bring your attention backward, into your spine. Notice your spine up and down your back. Take this moment to think about the aims of the Hebrew Bible, of Jesus, and of Catholic social teaching. Dignity for life. Solidarity with the living, the workers, the poor, those killed and impoverished and outcast by the state and by society. Responsibility to each other. Care for all life. Feel God’s wisdom in your body, anchored by your spine.

Let that feeling move back into your chest. Feel it move down into your stomach, into your pelvis, and down your legs into your feet. Feel it infuse your body. 

Giver of life, help us have the courage and tenderness to see others on their own terms. Give us the wisdom to see the interconnectedness of our struggles. Show us the serenity of your presence with us, through the ages.

A Witness

Chris Smalls and Derrick Palmer

Chris Smalls is president of the Amazon Labor Union, and together with Derrick Palmer, unionized the first Amazon warehouse in the United States, in Staten Island, New York. In March 2020, Amazon fired Smalls after he and Palmer led a walkout protest for COVID safety measures in the warehouse. 

Chris Smalls and Derrick Palmer
Left – Chris Smalls; Right – Derrick Palmer

After being fired, Smalls stuck around. In an interview with the Daily Show, he said he knew before the pandemic that Amazon’s crushing warehouse policies had to be dealt with – when the pandemic hit, it became “life or death.” Smalls and Palmer started the Amazon Labor Union in April 2020, and began the long battle against Amazon’s highly funded anti-union campaign. Smalls spent days on end speaking with Amazon workers as they changed shifts at the warehouse, despite no longer being an employee. In April 2022, the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island voted to unionize, and the Amazon Labor Union was born, with Smalls as president.

Smalls took a big risk sticking around Amazon after they fired him. He was unemployed, and not a wealthy person. Things worked out for him, but they easily could have failed. Although he’s not Catholic, we should look to him as an example: He embodied every tenet of Catholic social teaching listed above, and although a union can be a reform for workers’ rights within exploitative capitalism, he made it clear that his aim is structural change. With his fellow workers, he pushed for something greater. As Smalls says, “I’m playing for a different team, and I’m with the people.”

A Community

The Poor People’s Campaign

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PPC) is a movement designed to bring working people together across identity lines, while honoring the differences and needs of its various constituents. I encourage everyone to see if their state has an active chapter of the PPC.

The Poor People’s Campaign began in 1968, founded by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the year of his assassination. When King and his fellow organizers saw that civil rights legislation did little to increase the economic wellbeing of Black Americans, they moved to address the “interlocking evils” of poverty, racism, and militarism that plagued people of all colors across the country. Racism was going nowhere without an economic revolution. Unfortunately, the PPC couldn’t sustain itself after King’s death.

In 2018 Reverend Doctors William Barber and Liz Theoharris began the PPC again, through their respective organizations, Repairers of the Breach and the Kairos Center. They expanded the  interlocking evils to also include ecological devastation and the false moral narrative of white, Christian nationalism.

The PPC focuses on organizing poor and working people, and showing unwavering solidarity with one another. They refuse to engage in identitarian rhetoric that blames individual people for social ills, instead focusing on the systems of colonialism and capitalism that harm everyone, and especially the poor. They prioritize building power because so many lives depend on it. Think on this ethos, and look for movements and organizations that live the values of Catholic social teaching, like the Poor People’s Campaign. 

Check out the Kairos Center for liberating Bible and theology resources.


“Time Traveler,” by Lyla June Johnston

“Time Traveler,” a song by artist Lyla June Johnston speaks to solidarity, rootedness, and a focus on the community that exists, as well as those to come. Lyla June’s bio reads, “Lyla June Johnston is an Indigenous public speaker, artist, scholar and community organizer of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages from Taos, New Mexico. Her messages focus on Indigenous rights, supporting youth, traditional land stewardship practices and healing inter-generational and inter-cultural trauma.”

“Time Traveler” reminds us of the greater wisdom, “the song that is traveling through,” that transcends the knowledge of any age. It speaks to stewardship of the earth, and connection to the cosmos, that, while perhaps not part of readers’ own traditions, is a human reality that all Catholics should consider from their own worlds. Lyla June’s work taps into the deep wisdom of God, of creation, and of life itself; it speaks a language that the best of Catholic social teaching aims toward, and can encourage Catholics to dig deep into our own tradition for this wisdom.