The 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18 + 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 + Matthew 5:38-48
February 23, 2020
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
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click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (6:01)
click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday
click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday (15:18)
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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2017 Angelus address for this Sunday
click HERE to read Pope Benedict’s 2011 Angelus address for this Sunday
click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s reflection upon the Call to Holiness
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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
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Today’s Gospel Reading has three parts. The first two are examples that Jesus gives us. We heard the first several examples last Sunday. Jesus prefaced these examples by saying, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
All the examples follow the same pattern. Jesus starts by saying, “You have heard that it was said ….” Then he quotes the Old Testament to show how the scribes and Pharisees act. But in the second part, Jesus explains how His disciples will act if they want to get to Heaven. So Jesus continues each example by saying, “But I say to you ….” Then Jesus gives us a new understanding of the Law of God. In doing so, Jesus perfects the Law of God.
As Jesus gives these six examples of righteousness, they grow more and more difficult to follow. They culminate in Jesus declaring: “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 ….”
Why would this example have shocked and confused Jesus’ crowd? There are several reasons, the most obvious of which is that for ancient Israel, hating their enemies was thought to be a survival instinct. From Egypt to the Red Sea to the Sinai desert to the Holy Land, they had taught themselves that it was “either kill or be killed”. That’s how they dispossessed the enemies who lived in the Holy Land when they arrived there at the end of the Exodus. That’s how they maintained possession of the Holy Land for centuries after the Exodus.
But after a while, this self-taught lesson sank so deeply into their hearts and minds, that a strange and terrible thing happened. Their animosity turned inward against the People of God.
By Jesus’ day, Israel was divided into three regions: Galilee in the north, Samaria in the middle, and Judah in the south. The Gospel accounts paint a portrait of animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews in Judah. This animosity is illustrated in Jesus’ parable about the good Samaritan, the point of which is seen in a Samaritan treating someone in Judah as a neighbor.
Yet even among the Jews in Jerusalem, the various parties of power were often at odds. The Acts of the Apostles tells how St. Paul once pitted the Sadducees and Pharisees against each other by means of their religious differences [Acts 23:6-10]. By doing so, Paul escaped from the legal trial he unjustly faced.
A far more unjust trial, however, took place on Good Friday, when the innocent Son of God was declared guilty of blasphemy and nailed to a cross to die. Meanwhile, “Barabbas”, the “Son of man” who had committed insurrection, was freed by the crowd. The irony of Good Friday is the logical outcome of looking for an enemy where God has given you a friend. On Good Friday, man puts God on trial, and declares God to be man’s enemy, while the whole point of the Incarnation was that man could call God his neighbor, his brother, and his Savior.