Gospel Reflection: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Malvern Minute


FEBRUARY 19, 2017



Whoever keeps the word of Christ, 

the love of God is truly perfected in him.




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.”




Today’s Sacred Liturgy begins with a command from God found in the Book of Leviticus: 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.  Our All-Holy God calls His children to a life of holiness.  The Second Vatican Council reminded the whole world that God commissions every person to be holy!

This expectation of God from Leviticus sets the context within which we hear and understand the teaching of Jesus in today’s Gospel.  This is the fourth Sunday in a row that we have been hearing from and reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount provided by Saint Matthew’s GospelThe Sermon is the fundamental, foundational morality, the way of living for disciples of Jesus.  Jesus repeatedly makes a distinction between what people in the past thought was the way to live, verses the way Jesus expects us to conduct ourselves as disciples: You have heard that it was said…. But, I say to you!  The teachings of Jesus establishes the norm for discipleship, and simultaneously ushers in the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Jesus nullifies these past presumptions of an eye for an eye … hate your enemy … and love (only) those who love you!  In place of these past attitudes, Jesus commands His followers to have these Beatitudes: offer no resistance to one who is evil…. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!

As if these expectations of Jesus are not impossible enough to meet, Jesus concludes His teaching with the following: So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

At this point, we might wonder if Jesus really understands our human condition in which we find ourselves.  We are weak sinners, therefore, how can Jesus expect us to fulfill the Beatitudes, let alone to be perfect as God is perfect.  Saint Paul clearly summarized our frailty and sinfulness: For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.  Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me (Roman 17: 19-20).

The Sermon proclaims the vision of God, the very nature and condition of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom is God’s Kingdom.  On its own, humanity cannot bring about the kingdom of God, nor can people be perfect without the intervention and power of Jesus Christ.  However, this truth does not mean that we have no responsibility!  This does not leave us off the hook; we were invited at Baptism to be collaborators with God, instruments of His Divine Plan of Salvation to save all humankind!  We can be holy; Jesus Christ can perfect us.

So then, when someone strikes us on the right cheek, what holds us back from offering our other cheek?  What prevents us from loving those who hurt us?  From my experience, fear is the reason we do not forgive and love those who hurt us.  Fear makes us close in on ourselves.  Fear is the opposite of love!  When someone hurts me, I am afraid to forgive because it might look like I was the one wrong and the other person was right.  My forgiveness might be seen as an invitation for that person or another to hurt me again.  I am afraid that my forgiveness and love of others will make me even more vulnerable, and expose me to more attacks.  People will think I am weak!  Yet, Jesus assures us: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

All Christian living, the whole of spiritual life builds on trusting God … that He will provide what I need exactly when I need it.  Relying on God dissolves fear. Union with Jesus empowers us to forgive and love even enemies!

Pope Paul VI provided this extremely important teaching: The Eucharist is the most direct, the most powerful invitation to friendship, to the following of Christ.  The Eucharist is the sustenance that gives the energy and joy to respond to love.  The Eucharist thus puts the problem of our life as a supreme challenge of love, of choices, of fidelity; if we accept the challenge, the issue, from being simply religious becomes social.  Love received from Christ in the Eucharist is communion with him and is therefore transformed into and expressed by our communion with our brothers and sisters.  Nourished by the real and sacramental body of Christ, we become ever more fully the Mystical Body of Christ.


Encountering the Divine Physician, Jesus Christ (St. Luke 5: 17-26) Consider joining the Men and Women of Malvern by deepening your personal relationship with Jesus and your commitment as a disciple through a weekend retreat.  See our Web Site for details: MalvernRetreat.com



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