A Reflection on the Readings for February 19th the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
This week we are being called to think about what it is and means to be holy. Each of our readings presents a different thought or practice that helps us to understand the concept of holiness. From our first reading, Leviticus, “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge. Love your neighbor as yourself”. In the Responsorial Psalm, “Not according to our sins does He deal with us.” The second reading from 1st Corinthians states, “the Spirit of God dwells in you.” And the last line of the Gospel tells us, “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We must reconcile ourselves with the knowledge that we were created in the likeness and image of God. Yes, God is an intrinsic part of our very selves. It is only through the abandonment of that knowledge that the world and all of its allurements lead us away from that part within ourselves, that virtuous, moral, and loving part, away from the Spirit of God that dwells in us.
We must acknowledge those items that so often draw us away from holiness. Revenge, grudges, the lack of love for our neighbor, whoever that neighbor––that other person, made just like us––is—that person made in the image and likeness of God.
If we are being called and desire to be part of the Kingdom of God in Heaven, then we are to go beyond the way the world usually works and serve God’s Kingdom here on Earth.
Jesus is asking us to embrace our enemy. Actually, if we peruse the Old Testament, there is no call to hate individuals in a personal or vindictive way. However, a religious stance directs us to hate evil; in all its forms and to distance ourselves from those who participate in evil.
In contrast, Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes that the love of God and the love of neighbor are the fundamental commands on which everything else depends. Because God’s love is unconditional, we must strive to love as God loves. We can find this concept very challenging and may even ask ourselves if it is even possible?
If we look upon that last line of the Gospel where we are to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” the actual word that Matthew uses in Greek is “telos,” which is translated more accurately as meaning “complete.”
It is knowing that we cannot be perfect in everything or even morally correct in every instance of our lives. We are, therefore, to be perfect by striving to reach the “completeness” we are called to in the Kingdom of Heaven. This completeness includes attempting to love our enemies and persecutors.
We must always remember to look upon those persecutors and those who make and become enemies as the same children of God. Always recognizing that they also were made in the image and likeness of God, but for some reason, have lost that completeness.
Jesus calls us outside of our comfort zone. He is teaching us that we need to be that love, His love that will shine the light and dispel the darkness that shrouds their spirit, which they received in their creation.
This love is the direction toward completeness, toward holiness, and the path to the Kingdom of God.
Deacon Jeff Borski
Author: Deacon Jeff Borski, Sacred Heart Catholic Church & School, Conroe, TX