We are one month into 2017. Each day we get a few more minutes of daylight giving us hope for spring and the new life it brings. We settle into the church cycle of Ordinary Time.
With Lent not beginning until March 1 this we year we hear a good portion of St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount without interruption. It message, beginning with the eight beatitudes, is counter-cultural to the times that we live in. Blessed are the poor, the sorrowful, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, and the peacemakers. Blessed are you when you are insulted and persecuted and maligned because you live Gospel values. Do not speak falsely; do not be angry, do not retaliate; love your enemies; depend on God; do not judge, love one another. Living these commands is not easy. Our strength to remain faithful disciples comes through prayer, worship at the Table of the Eucharist and the support of each other.
February has two important feast days, the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple and the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. The first is a feast of hope and inclusion. We exclaim with Simeon, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the people: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The latter is a feast of faith, demonstrated by St. Peter’s declaration, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
February is also a month in which to think about the people we love and those who love us. We celebrate these life-giving relationships on Valentine’s Day. Though little is known about St. Valentine, we do know he was martyred in Rome in the third century for converting others to Christianity. In giving his life to lead others to Christ, he lived out Jesus’ words: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).
Let the Sermon on the Mount, and three simple words—faith, hope and love can guide us through this month of ordinary time into the season of lent.