Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 20, 2011 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


Leviticus 19:1–2, 17–18
The Lord speaks through Moses - note the same message in the Gospel!

Psalm 103:1–4, 8, 10, 12–13
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
1 Corinthians 3:16–23
We are temples of the Holy Spirit at baptism.

Matthew 5:38–48
The Lord speaks through his son and our savior, Jesus Christ - note the repetition of the message in the first reading!  Theses are the last ten verses of the the Sermon on the Mount.
“ . . . . . that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust . . . . ” (Mt 5:45)

Scott Hahn's Reflection of the Readings followed by an amazing article, Militant Faith, by John Kavanaugh (edited by Soutenus) . . . . .
We are called to the holiness of God. That is the extraordinary claim made in both the First Reading and Gospel this Sunday.

Yet how is possible that we can be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect?

Jesus explains that we must be imitators of God as his beloved children (Eph. 5:1–2).

As God does, we must love without limit—with a love that does not distinguish between friend and foe, overcoming evil with good (see Rom. 12:21).

Jesus himself, in his Passion and death, gave us the perfect example of the love that we are called to.
He offered no resistance to the evil—even though he could have commanded twelve legions of angels to fight alongside him. He offered his face to be struck and spit upon. He allowed his garments to be stripped from him. He marched as his enemies compelled him to the Place of the Skull. On the cross he prayed for those who persecuted him (see Matt. 26:53–54, 67; 27:28, 32; Luke 23:34).

In all this he showed himself to be the perfect Son of God. By his grace, and through our imitation of him, he promises that we too can become children of our heavenly Father.

God does not deal with us as we deserve, as we sing in this week’s Psalm. He loves us with a Father’s love. He saves us from ruin. He forgives our transgressions.

He loved us even when we had made ourselves his enemies through our sinfulness. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (see Rom. 5:8).

We have been bought with the price of the blood of God’s only Son (see 1 Cor. 6:20). We belong to Christ now, as St. Paul says in this week’s Epistle. By our baptism, we have been made temples of his Holy Spirit.

And we have been saved to share in his holiness and perfection. So let us glorify him by our lives lived in his service, loving as he loves.

Militant Faith . . . . “Love your enemies.”

The Sermon on the Mount (can be) so baffling, we sometimes ignore it or pretend we never heard it. Those tactics failing, we turn it inside out. The first time I came across such a strategy was after a lecture I gave on “Capital Punishment and Disarmament in the Light of the Gospels.” My assigned task was apparently not very successfully accomplished. From the back of the room came a courageous dissenting voice. “How can you be against war and capital punishment? Even Christ said, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’”

What can one do? Why even say that the very next sentence of Jesus in Matthew continues: “But what I say to you is: offer no resistance to injury. When a person strikes you on the right cheek, turn and offer him the other”?

We’ve had these words since the beginning of our church, and by and large we still act as if Jesus said, “an eye for an eye.” Even if we finally acknowledge that Jesus did solemnly tell us to turn the other cheek, in our more candid moments we admit that we think it’s outrageous.

Sometimes I feel everything in my being recoils from the words of Jesus. I want even more than an eye for an eye. And who has a right to ask me for an extra shirt, much less a coat? I reluctantly give up a minute of service, much less a mile. Go two miles? Love enemies? It’s hard enough to love those close at hand.

When I see my own resistance to the gospels, how can I be upset if my country thinks it is sheer idiocy? Try forgiving the creep down the street, much less Saddam Hussein.

Our resistance to the gospel is all of a piece. To hold myself not accountable is to hold my family, community or nation not accountable. To exempt any of these groups from the truth is to exempt myself.

In The Old Testament without Illusion biblical scholar John L. McKenzie notes that Christians have felt compelled to create and honor a political ethic where Christ is useless. But such a maneuver invites tragedy, because the political is always in some way personal, and the personal, political. When we make decisions as a nation or a church as if the Incarnation has not happened and Jesus has not died, personal imitation sooner or later follows suit.

The way of Jesus stands in contrast to our personal wars as well as our public ones. As McKenzie puts it, “You cannot be a Christian in private and a secularist every place where your life impinges upon the public; or, to steal another phrase, you cannot serve God and Mammon.” McKenzie goes on to say that Christians who think they can serve both God and Mammon support just wars. The same can be said for capital punishment.

It is not easy. The demons of the world and of our hearts seduce us into thinking that the ways of God cannot be followed in this time-bound journey. Even the commands that the Lord gave to Moses seemed so impractical. “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” They were to have no hatred for brother or sister, to take no revenge, to cherish no grudge against fellow citizens, to love their neighbors as themselves. So the Israelites, like all nations, all peoples, weighed the shrewdness of the world, of self-defense, of retaliation, on a balance with the wisdom of God.

For myself, what got me to speak less confidently about capital punishment and forgiveness of enemies was the terrible murder of a young girl, the daughter of a friend of mine. He was a fellow professor at the university and a deacon in a local parish. I found myself avoiding him, especially after the murderers were caught and put on trial. I knew full well that he was aware of my facile arguments against capital punishment, and I was almost ashamed to have him look at me.

Finally one day we were suddenly on the same elevator; I could not escape. I murmured how difficult it must be to go through the trial, reliving his great loss once again. “Yes,” he said, “but the hardest thing is trying to convince the prosecutors that we want life imprisonment without parole and not the death penalty. He doesn’t understand that we follow Christ in all of this.”

Here was someone, profoundly injured by an unjust aggressor, who really believed and wanted to practice the words of Jesus. He really believed in a God who gives sun and rain to the unjust as well as the just. He really aspired to a love made perfect in the Crucified who asked forgiveness for enemies. He had entered the mystery of which Paul spoke. He knew that all things were his, and he was Christ’s, and Christ was God’s

“Are you not aware that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you: lf anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.” So also, somehow, is the criminal and the enemy, despite the empty wisdom of the worldly wise.
John Kavanaugh, S. J. of Saint Louis University
A thought for today:
Perhaps there is a “pagan” side of each of us which demands revenge, severity and quid-pro-quo exchanges. The only way to banish the pagan is through God's love and grace. We are called to this kind of holiness.
We are only constructing false security when we plan revenge and war. Our real security lies in Christ - period.

Scott Hahn
John Kavanaugh 
Larry Gillick, S.J., of  Creighton University 
Cartoon - Cartoon Stock


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