Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
February 23, 2020
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Collect

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, always pondering spiritual things,
we may carry out in both word and deed
that which is pleasing to you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Proper Chants

 Introit

 

O Lord, I have placed my trust in your merciful love; my heart has rejoiced in your salvation. I will sing unto the Lord who has dealt bountifully with me.  Ps/. How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? * How long will you hide your face from me How long must I bear grief in my soul, †have sorrow in my heart all daylong? * How long shall my enemy prevail over me?

Offertory

 

Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God, for it is you, O Lord, whom I implore. Ps/. You are no God who delights in evil; *no sinner is your  guest. The boastful shall not stand their ground *before your eyes.

Communion

 

I will relate all your wondrous deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing to the honour of your name, O Most High. Ps/. But the Lord sits enthroned forever; *he has set up his throne for judgment. He will judge the world with justice; *he will govern the peoples with equity.

Liturgy of the Word

First Reading Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses, "Say to all the congregation of the people of Israel, You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy. "You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are. Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile." So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apol'los or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's.

Gospel Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do you understand holiness?
  2. Where do you see folly in the wisdom of this world?
  3. How do you understand perfection?

Catena Nova

Until there is love for enemies, there is no real transformation, because the enemy always carries the dark side of your own soul. Normally those people who threaten us carry our own faults in a different form. The people who really turn you off are very much like you. Jesus offers not just a suggestion; you’ve got to love your enemy to grow up. Jesus rightly puts it in the imperative form: Do it! Also, what we don’t like about ourselves is our inner enemy, in a certain sense. We must learn to love and forgive that enemy, too. Sometimes that takes great humility and great compassion, but if we learn it internally, we will be prepared for the outer enemies….. If you greet only your brother, what’s so great about that? The ultimately alienating process is that if we stay inside our religious/ethnic group, wars and racism continue. That’s just staying inside a kind of magnified self-love. The key is always to love the stranger at the gate. Love the one outside of your comfort zone, the outsider, the other. Until you can enter into the outsider and the other, Jesus says, you really have not loved at all. What’s his motivation for doing this? The all-inclusiveness of the Father. What Jesus suggests is a kind of imitatio Deo, an imitation of God. If that’s who God is and that’s the way God loves, then that’s how we want to love. God rubs off on people who hang around God. If God sets no bounds, then we have to stop keeping score and weighing worthiness. (Fr. Richard Rohr)

Unless we are constantly watchful and unless we have faced the truth about ourselves, we are bound to discriminate. It can easily happen that we pass for very kind people, ever ready to lend a hand or do a good turn, and in our own heart we may think we are.  But there will be one or two left out of this benevolent radiance.  We shall be courteous to them, for we must not spoil the image we have of ourselves as charitable persons, but we shall be critical, ready to find fault in a discreet way, ready to use them as scapegoats.  We shall find it hard to be fair in judgment where they are concerned. We shall come up with rational explanations of why we think as we do, but if we were really honest we would have to admit that in some way these people cut us down to size.  In some way they challenge and threaten us.  They may seem to undervalue us, perhaps are critical of us, and this makes us feel insecure.  We don't like feeling like this so we must find some way of destroying these people — not literally but in so far as they have power over us.  We pull them down in our estimation or keep them severely at a distance.  Even the heathen can love those who love them, as our Lord says.  His disciples must love their enemies and do them good.  Few of us have enemies but we all have those who hurt us in one way or another and we can be refusing our love to these. Because we are good people we don't do outrageous things, and therefore our consciences are kept untroubled.  We fail to see the great importance of these small acts of injustice, or attitudes of rejection which we hold.  They are sin and come between us and God.  To leave one person out of our love is proof positive — we need no other — that our love for others is not really pure, not the love of Jesus.  Our own self will be involved in one way or another.  It has always seemed to me that what we experience in our form of community life is exactly the same as we would anywhere else in the world, only more concentrated. We have the same dangers and the same struggles. (Sr. Ruth Burrows)

"If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one to him as well." Why the right cheek? A blow by the right fist in that right-handed world would land on the left cheek of the opponent. An open-handed slap would also strike the left cheek. To hit the right cheek with a fist would require using the left hand ... The only way one could naturally strike the right cheek with the right hand would be with the back of the hand. We are dealing here with insult, not a fistfight. The intention is clearly not to injure but to humiliate, to put someone in his or her place ... A backhand slap was the usual way of admonishing inferiors. Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; men, women; Romans, Jews. We have here a set of unequal relations, in each of which retaliation would invite retribution. The only normal response would be cowering submission. Why then does he counsel those already humiliated people to turn the other cheek? Because this action robs the oppressor of the power to humiliate. The person who turns the other cheek is saying, in effect, "Try again. Your first blow failed to achieve its intended effect. I deny you the power to humiliate me. I am a human being just like you. Your status does not alter that fact. You cannot demean me." (Walter Wink)

Jesus invites all men to devote themselves to the project of getting rid of violence, a project conceived with reference to the true nature of violence, taking into account the illusions it fosters, the methods by which it gains ground, and all the laws that we have verified over the course of these discussions. Violence is the enslavement of a pervasive lie; it imposes upon men a falsified vision not only of God but also of everything else. And that is indeed why it is a closed kingdom. Escaping from violence is escaping from this kingdom into another kingdom, whose existence the majority of people do not even suspect. This is the Kingdom of love, which is also the domain of the true God, the Father of Jesus, of whom the prisoners of violence cannot even conceive. To leave violence behind, it is necessary to give up the idea of retribution; it is therefore necessary to give up forms of conduct that have always seemed to be natural and legitimate. For example, we think it quite fair to respond to good dealings with good dealings, and to evil dealings with evil, but this is precisely what all the communities on the planet have always done, with familiar results…. If we interpret the gospel doctrine in the light of our own observations about violence, we can see that it explains, in the most clear and concise fashion, all that people must do in order to break with the circularity of closed societies, whether they be tribal, national, philosophical or religious. There is nothing missing and there is no superfluous detail. (René Girard)

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, "Love your enemies." Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.)

In Paul's eyes, it is not only the human spirit, thanks to which man is constituted as a personal subject, that decides the dignity of the human body. But even more so it is the supernatural reality constituted by the indwelling and the continual presence of the Holy Spirit in man—in his soul and in his body—as fruit of the redemption carried out by Christ. It follows that man's body is no longer just his own. It deserves that respect whose manifestation in the mutual conduct of man, male and female, constitutes the virtue ofpurity. This is not only because it is the body of the person. When the Apostle writes: "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God" (1 Cor 6:19), he intends to indicate yet another source of the dignity of the body, precisely the Holy Spirit, who is also the source of the moral duty deriving from this dignity. (Pope St. John Paul II)

The mystery of Christian life is loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. Forgiveness, prayer, and love for those who seek to destroy us is the path Jesus has laid out for us. The challenge of Christian life is asking the Lord for the grace to bless our enemies and to love them….To pray for those who want to destroy me, my enemies, so that God may bless them: This is truly difficult to understand. We can recall events of the last century, like the poor Russian Christians who, simply for being Christians, were sent to Siberia to die of cold. And they should pray for the executing government that sent them there? How can that be? Yet many did so: they prayed. We think of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Should they pray for the dictator who sought a ‘pure race’ and killed without scruple, even to pray that God should bless him? And yet many did so.” Jesus’ “difficult logic” is contained in his prayer for those who put him to death on the Cross. Jesus asks God to forgive them. There is an infinite distance between us – we who frequently refuse to forgive even small things – and what the Lord asks of us, which he has exemplified for us: To forgive those who seek to destroy us. It is often very difficult within families, for example, when spouses need to forgive one another after an argument, or when one needs to forgive their mother-in-law. It’s not easy… Rather, [we are invited] to forgive those who are killing us, who want us out of the way… Not only forgive, but even pray that God may watch over them! Even more, to love them. Only Jesus’ word can explain this. It is a grace “to understand this Christian mystery and be perfect like the Father, who gives good things to the good and the bad. It would do us well, today, to think of our enemy – I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. ( Pope Francis)

Homily

SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

   Readings: Lv. 19:1-2,17-18; 1 Cor. 3:16-23; Mt. 5:38-48

 Pogo Sticks

            Let me tell you about my enemy.  We were pretty good friends at one time.  I would always take his side in a dispute. And console him when others got on his case.  I thought he was misunderstood.  But the longer I knew him, I began to see why so many people felt the way they did about him.  His whole problem stemmed from insecurity.  He needed to be the center of attention.  Or else his self-esteem would plummet.  He was obsessed with his job.  Would have done anything to keep it.  Which is why he talked behind people’s backs.  See, he had to discredit others to make himself look good.  To protect his fragile ego.  Our falling out happened when I realized he was doing that to me.

            So I couldn’t believe the day he resigned.  I knew it was just a ploy for sympathy.  But the resignation was accepted and I was asked to take over.  That’s when dislike turned to hatred.  He did every­thing he could to make my new job difficult.  Every time I tried to make a change, he was there to oppose it.  He and his cronies.

            One summer I was on vacation and the phone rang.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  My enemy was dead.  It wasn’t possible.  We had just seen each other a few weeks before.  We grunted at each other.  I went to the church for his wake.  Sure enough it was him.  Quite dead.  You can imagine how I felt kneeling there at his casket.  Every sermon I ever preached on loving your enemy was running through my head.  I remembered him saying how he thought priests in purgatory were made to listen to all the sermons they ever preached while a video of their lives was played on a big screen so everyone could compare words and deeds.  He thought I’d be up for an Oscar, to which I said, “And yours will be a double feature.”

            I remembered another time he quoted The Imitation of Christ to me: that famous line about how it’s better to feel compunction than to know its definition.  He thought I was long on theory and short on practice.  I told him, “You should read the whole book and not just the Reader’s Digest version.”   But as I knelt at his casket, I was feeling some compunction.

            I remembered something too: Wasn’t it Pogo from the comics who said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us?”  For in that moment, I acknowledged how some of the qualities I disliked in my enemy were really things I dislike about myself.  How I projected onto him some of my own shortcomings.  Gives a new twist on, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, doesn’t it? (I)  You might as well say, “Hate your enemy as you hate yourself.”  It’s sure easier and, besides, we do it anyway.

            Perhaps it’s the same with you – how there are people who can show we are less than perfect… as [our] heavenly Father is perfect (cf. G).  People who can testify we do indeed bear hatred for our brother [or sister] in our heart… cherishing grudges against our fellow citizen (cf. I).  (And there’s plenty of that going on these days, isn’t there?)

            Not to mention those people who would roll their eyes at the words, When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well, because they know we wouldn’t.  And when the Lord tells us, Pray for those who persecute you, they know we don’t (cf. G).

            And there’d be little to defend us.  Should we call on those we do love, it wouldn’t matter all that much.  Because they love us back.  Pagans do the same.  No, God is looking for more evidence that we are indeed children of our heavenly Father (cf. G).

            Thank goodness today’s psalm reminds us how merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.  Not accord­ing to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes (RP).

            Not that this gets me off on a plea bargain.  I’ll be hearing this sermon in purgatory yet!  But it does give me hope.  As does Paul who says, Everything belongs to [us], not only life, but death as well; not only the present but also the future.  When I might have another chance to make peace with my enemy as we watch that Oscar-winning performance.  When both of us will belong to Christ, and Christ to God (cf. II).  In the kingdom, where they live and reign, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, world without end.  Amen.

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