Universal Call to Holiness: the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

Central idea: Everyone love everyone, like God. Doctrine: The universal call to holiness. Practical application: Loving where we have withheld love.

For Lectionary 79, click here.

Central idea: Everyone love everyone, like God

Reading 1 Lv 19:1-2, 17-1

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.”

  • The Lord’s command to “be holy” is for “the whole Israelite community.” Every Jew is called to holiness. In Christ, every human being is.
  • “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” We should be holy because God is holy. We should be like God.
    • This means there is something in God’s nature that is also in human nature. God would not demand we be like him if that were not possible. (Imagine if Einstein said to a squirrel, “Be mathematical for I am mathematical.”) Here then is another dimension of being made in the image and likeness of God: the potential for holiness.
    • God is holy because is nature is goodness. We have the capacity for holiness because by nature we desire the good. This desire for the good is seen in our motive for every decision we make: to be happy or happier.
  • Part of holiness is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This means to reprove evil-doing as necessary, but never to bear a grudge, to hate, or to take revenge, because these would be sins.
  • In God’s gradual revelation, he first taught the Chosen People that the object of this love was one’s fellow Jew (“brother or sister,” “fellow citizen,” “your people,” “your neighbor”).
  • Later, in Christ, he taught that the “neighbor” is every human being. So the call to holiness is universal: everyone is to love everyone. (The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a perfect illustration of this doctrine.)

Responsorial Psalm Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
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.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

  • To fear God means to look at displeasing him the way a good son or daughter looks at displeasing a good father or mother. Much more than the fear of punishment is the fear of displeasing someone so good.
  • God has revealed his kindness and mercy fully through the redemption which he has won for us in his victory over the devil, sin, and death.
  • In Christ, God forgives our sins and promises us healing of all our ills, eternal life, and complete happiness.
  • It is a huge error to think that the Lord looks at us the way we look at our enemies, with suspicion, ready to pay back their evil to us. Rather, he looks at us with the compassion of a good father, forgetting our sins and offering us only good things. (The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a perfect illustration of this psalm.)
  • This Psalm shows us the measure of perfection Christ asks us to bring to our relationships.

Reading 2 1 Cor 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself.
If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:
God catches the wise in their own ruses,
and again:
The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

  • Paradise is the secure possession of everything good. All human beings desire this. To the Corinthians, St. Paul makes the outrageous claim that “everything belongs to you.”
  • The “wisdom of this world” is to attempt to create and to hold on to one’s own paradise, which is futile.
  • To make yourself a gift to others looks like foolishness to “wise” and powerful human beings. They wonder, “How can you possibly gain by giving?”
  • Both the paradise we desire and the holiness we are called to are gifts God gives us.

Gospel Mt 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“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,
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.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

  • In this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus again confirms, corrects, and expands the Ten Commandments.
  • Underneath the commandments, just as underneath the natural moral law, is justice: everyone giving everyone what is due. In particular, in the Ten Commandments, the first three pertain to us giving God what we owe him, and the final seven regard us giving other human beings what we owe them.
  • Jesus is saying that when it comes to other human beings, we owe to everyone perfect justice.
    • By “everyone” he really means everyone, including enemies.
    • By perfect justice he means generous self-giving love, not tit-for-tat.
  • In the order of the Redemption, because we have everything and cannot lose it (so long as we stay in friendship with God), we no longer have to defend ourselves against every slight, real or imagined, no longer have to hold resentments, no longer have to keep score, but can really make a gift of ourselves to others. This is what our Heavenly Father does for us.
  • The Lord encourages us in the truth that we shall be perfect. Through the intervention of God’s justice, which is the Redemption, we will love with God’s own love, which does not diminish itself in response to the threat of evil.
    • God does not love less because that love may not be or is not returned.
    • That is our model. “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.”
    • Love of enemy is how God loves.

Doctrine: The universal call to holiness

  • God calls everyone to holiness: Everyone is to love everyone the way God loves everyone.
    • Holiness means to possess divine grace and to practice virtues.[1]
    • We have a sure means to grace in the Sacraments of the Church.
    • To live the virtues in this world takes also a struggle on our part.

Practical application: Loving where we have withheld love

  • Who is someone about whom you have made this calculation: “Because he has done this to me, I will only go this far for him”? This person might be right next to you or far away in space and time.
  • Abandon this measure and consider how really loving him now would look.
  • Love him in this way now. At the very least, you can pray for him even if he is far away and even dead.

The Homiletic Directory recommends these Catechism points and themes for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:

  • CCC 1933, 2303: love of neighbor incompatible with hatred of enemies
  • CCC 2262-2267: prohibition to harm others apart from self-defense
  • CCC 2842-2845: prayer and pardon of enemies
  • CCC 2012-2016: the heavenly Father’s perfection calls all to holiness
  • CCC 1265: we become temples of the Holy Spirit in baptism
  • CCC 2684: saints are temples of the Holy Spirit

[1] http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=33939

 

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