Welcome to Saint Mary’s Church, Harborne, Birmingham, UK.

Order of St. Augustine.

Archdiocese of Birmingham

“Before all else, live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.”  St. Augustine.

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                                    Fr. Bernard O’Connor’s Homily

                                   for Sunday 16th February 2020

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Sermon on the Mount.

Matt.  5: 17-37.


This is quite a long Gospel passage from the sermon on the mount, that is from the collected teachings of Jesus.

There is a single theme that runs through it  all, expressed by the response of Jesus when asked which was the greatest of the commandments, when he quoted from the Old Testament:  ‘the first is you shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, with all your mind’  from the Book of Deuteronomy (6,4) and ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’ from the Book of Leviticus (19.17), both of them quotes from instructions by Moses.

In both of them the operative word in ‘Love’.


He had not come then to do away with the Law of Moses, but to complete it.  He quoted from the ten commandments, which were the words of God himself, ‘You shall not kill’. But showed his authority as the Son of God by going on  ‘But I say to you’.

He was refining even the word of God his Father.


He was however critical of many of the regulations which had accumulated over the centuries, such as not doing anything, however worthy on the Sabbath.  You may remember how he was criticised for healing infirmities on the Sabbath day, and how his disciples were criticised for rubbing ears of corn in their hands on the Sabbath.


A similar situation had arisen in our own Catholic Church.  Over the centuries, especially since the Protestant reformation a whole lot of regulations were gradually added on as an explanation of the Gospel in practice and given an importance out of all proportion, for example not eating meat on Fridays.


Pope John XXIII in 1959 called the Second Vatican Council, the purpose of which was to cut through all these rules and to gt to the essence of the Gospel, expressing it in language that would be intelligible in the second half of the twentieth century.


Pope Francis is endeavouring to continue in this spirit, so that the Catholic Church shows forth to the world the compassionate face of Christ, a Church of mercy.


Jesus singled out the Scribes and the Pharisees as  seeking nothing deeper than the letter of the law.

He gives some examples of what he means:

Do not be satisfied with observing the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’, but go further and do not be angry with your brother, do not seek to return hurt for hurt.

Do not be satisfied with observing the commandment ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ but do not even harbour lust in your heart.

If you are bringing an offering to the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, go first and become reconciled with your brother and then come and offer your gift.


In every case the operative word if love.

But love is more than a nice cosy inner feeling.

Jesus gave us an example of what love means in his life:

He healed the sick,  the infirm, he cast out evil spirits, showing his power over evil.

He showed his care for the poor, the hungry, for those regarded as public sinners.


He showed us that love manifests itself in its practical care and concern for one’s fellow men and women.

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