BE PERFECT AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PERFECT

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Lev 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13 (R.v.8a); 1 Cor 3:16-23; Matt 5:38-48

BE PERFECT AS YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PERFECT

Christian vocation is a vocation to love because in it we are called to live in imitation of Christ who is love par excellence. 1 John 4:16 tells us that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.” So it is only through loving others that we can come to be perfect as our heavenly Father, following the calls we have in the First and the Gospel Reading.

This call to love must be answered in God’s own way since we live in imitation of him. So Jesus gives us the standard of that love. In the Gospel reading, there are two basic characteristics of that love that he encourages all of us to possess:

This love does not seek revenge and it knows no limit. He gave us an example of this when he forgave his persecutors on the cross (cf. Luke 23:34) and St. Paul noted that it was while we were still enemies of God (sinners) that christ came and died for us (cf. Rom 5:8).

As we can see too, the Book of Leviticus sees God’s holiness in the expression of love than in the call to duty. However, the call to love in Leviticus is restricted to fellow Israelites but Jesus extended that call to embrace even non-Jews – gentiles, Romans, etc.

It is also important for us to understand the situation of things in Palestine at the time Jesus was giving this teaching. It was a period of great Roman oppression. Roman officers were treating the Jews as slaves and were using them to do menial jobs. It was easy to get the obedience of the Jews since the Romans possessed power (see Mark 15:21).

So the Jews hated the Romans so much that vengeance at any opportunity is a sine qua non. Now, Jesus is telling them not only to avoid seeking vengeance but also bear the burden of Roman oppression with cheerfulness, all for the sake of God.

Is this not a stupid thing to do? How can you show love to your oppressor? Why must you do that? St. Paul tells us that we are the temple of God and that the Holy Spirit dwells in each and everyone of us. It is this Holy Spirit that unifies us and we must not undermine the power of the Holy Spirit even in the heart of your worst enemies. So Jesus invites us to conquer evil with love for love conquers all things (1Cor 13:7).

May God enable us with the grace and courage to shun all spirits of discrimination, hatred and revenge and so be able to love even when it hurts. Amen.

Have a lovely and blessed Sunday. Peace be with you.

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