Sunday February 23, 2020 The 7th Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
The tie in between today’s readings: You Must Be Holy and Perfect
Psalm 103:1-13, Leviticus 19:1-2; 17-18, 1 Corinthians 3:16-23, Matthew 5:38-48
Jesus starts this section in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:38-38, with some seemingly very foolish ideas. At first blush, His instructions on turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and not only giving into but…really loving our enemies, appears to be teaching some kind of “Doormat Christianity”. To top it off, He concludes with the command for us to be perfect! Like that’s ever going to happen. Obviously, a superficial reading of this passage misses the point. So, before going any further, let’s straighten a few things out. First, the Bible supports defending yourself and others from the bad guys. Second, in the above scenarios, we have a power in our responses. Jesus wants us to deal in meekness, not weakness. Third, the command to be perfect means to be mature and complete in purpose and not that we can’t make mistakes. God knows! With these things in mind, let’s dive into our gospel for today.
Jesus addresses two issues in this section: justice and “just us”. In justice, Our Lord quotes “an eye for an eye” from the Old Testament principle of judges handing out sentences that fit the crime. It’s not an easy thing to do. In more personal matters, our reading in Leviticus 19:17-18 tells us that God has relieved us from the burden and calamity of taking matters into our own hands. Vengeance is His! He will repay! We are to love! I believe that in our Lord’s exaggerated examples, Jesus wants us to try understanding the situation from our opponent’s point of view. After finding it out, as it says in Romans 12:21, overcome evil with good. The “just us” examples take this principle a step further. Our Lord challenges us to move beyond our comfortable crowd and reach out to our enemies. “Go to them,” He says, “You will be acting like your heavenly Father. Then you will be perfect.” In other words, when we act like our Father in heaven, we fulfill our original purpose to bear God’s image in this world. In our reading in Psalm 103, the Lord demonstrates what He wants us to do by reminding us of how He has treated us.
David opens the Psalm with some deep soul searching. He says, “Soul! Bless the Lord! Look at what He’s done for you! He has not given you what you deserve for your sins but has removed them as far as the east is from the west. The Lord heals you. The Lord gives you good things. The Lord has your back. The Lord’s compassion, grace, and lovingkindness toward you reaches up to heaven. Don’t ever forget it!” God has led by example. In order to follow Him, He tells us in our reading in Leviticus 19:1-2, that we need to be as Holy as He is. The problem is, we can’t do that. We are sinners by nature and by choice. The Almighty might as well say, “Jump to the moon.” This whole thing of holiness, loving your enemy, and being God imagers in this world, sets the bar way too high. It’s all so hopeless to achieve and foolish to attempt. So, where does that leave us? With us, it is impossible, but not with God.
It all comes down to faith in Jesus. Paul refers to it in our reading in 1 Corinthians 3:16-23. God by His “foolish” gospel confounds the wisdom of the world in solving this situation. With our sins forgiven by believing in the sacrifice of Christ, the new nature of the indwelling Holy Spirit comes to us. We become the temple of God and are holy by His presence in our lives. We also learn to imitate Jesus, the greatest God imager to ever walk the earth. What more can the Almighty do? Sins forgiven! Indwelling Holy Spirit! Holy Temple of God! Becoming like Jesus! He did it all because He loved us. While we were still His enemies in sin, Christ died for us to make us children of God. It’s our job to show that family resemblance! There is a world of sin and need all around us. We might be the only glimpse of Jesus that any of them may ever see. Time to let our light shine. Let us pursue and grow in holiness, bear His image in our lives, reach out to others, and be…perfect.