Saturday, February 22, 2014
7TH Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 23, 2014
7TH Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lv 19: 1-2, 17-18 / Ps 103: 1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13 (8a)/ 1 Cor 3: 16-23 / Mt 5: 38-48
First Reading: Lv 19:1-2,17-18
Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, "Speak to the entire assembly of the people of Israel and say to them: Be holy for I, Yahweh, your God, am holy. Do not hate your brother in your heart; rebuke your neighbor frankly so as not to share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or nurture a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh."
Second Reading: 1 Cor 3:16-23
Do you not know that you are God's temple, and that God's Spirit abides within you? If anyone destroys this temple of God, God will destroy him. God's temple is holy, and you are this temple. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone of you considers himself wise in the ways of the world, let him become a fool, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's eyes. To this, Scripture says: God catches the wise in his own wisdom. It also says: The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is useless. Because of this, let no one become an admirer of humans, for everything belongs to you. Paul, Apollos, Cephas – life, death, the present and the future. Everything is yours and you, you belong to Christ, and Christ is of God.
Gospel: Mt 5:38-48
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer him the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give when asked and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But this I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? For your part you shall be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.
Last Sunday's reading reminded us that for Jesus the fulfillment of the religious law is more than just an external observance of the letter of the law. It is important to have an understanding of the very purpose of the law. We can say that the real fulfillment of religious law looks to the heart of that law, and that heart is the heart of love! The fulfillment of the law must be alive with love, involving a loving dynamism of fulfillment.
Today's gospel reading shows us Jesus considering that dynamism. He tells his disciples that there is a dynamic growth in how the law of holiness will be understood. Perhaps in the past, he reminds them (and us today!) that it was enough to simply repeat old "traditional" understandings of the law. But growth in spiritual maturity calls the disciple to go beyond what had previously been taught. For example, in the past it may have been taught that to love the neighbor, it is enough to love those who love us. But, Jesus tells us, we must go beyond that so that our love of neighbour includes loving our enemies! In summary Jesus tells his disciples: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!"
It is certainly legitimate for us to wonder if what Jesus is asking of us is at all realistic. Is it at all possible for us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect? In the next life when we enjoy the perfection of heaven, having been purified of all sinfulness, that can be close to possible. But it is in this life here on earth where we have to live with enemies and with those who do us harm. It is in this life here on earth that we seek justice in return for injuries done to us. It is legitimate for us to wonder if Jesus is asking the impossible of us.
The answer to that question is a "yes" and a "no"! What Jesus is proposing is impossible if we rely on our own power and strength. But perhaps that is exactly the point that Jesus wants us to consider. Relying on our own powers and strengths, we will not be able to surpass the holiness of the scribes and Pharisees. But with the help that God can give us, we can hope to rise above the "holiness level" of the scribes and Pharisees. After all, we have heard the Lord remind us that "nothing is impossible for God."
To be able to rise to the challenge of today's gospel's norm of holiness or perfection, there are a number of things to consider. First of all it is important to have a real desire to grow towards the ideal Jesus is presenting. And together with that desire to grow, it is necessary that we be patient! The growth process is not a process of "instant success" but rather a process of day-after-day, week-after-week, and year-after-year growth. It is a "step by step" process, but there can be the realization that as it has been said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
Together, therefore with a real desire for growth in holiness and the patience to continue growing, there is need for courage! And here again we have the assurance that can give us courage. "Do not be afraid because I am with you!" says the Lord.
We pray …
… for a deep and profound respect for life, especially for the unborn.
… for all the prayer intentions in the MTQ Dailyprayer Diary.
… for families who are in need of healing.
… for world peace and reconciliation.
Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.
Have a good day!
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