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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 20, 2020

February 23, 2020

 

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

Psalm 103

First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 3:16-23

Matthew 5:38-48

Do you have a favorite movie?  I mean a really favorite movie!  One that you can sit through over and over and after watching it for the umpteenth time feel as if it was the first time you saw it.  In many ways that is how I reflect on the Gospels.  Not just today’s Gospel, but all of them.  The more I hear the Words and teachings of Jesus the more I want to hear them again, and again.  Today is no exception.  The manner in which Jesus teaches us reminds me of the method I used while I was teaching.  Just as I prepared a lesson plan for my students our Lord has one for us.  ALL OF US!

Today Jesus teaches us something new, something no one had ever done before.  He gave a new standard based not just on the requirements of righteousness, such as giving each his due, but based on the law of grace and love.  Jesus knew the law and its intention better than any jurist or legal expert could imagine.  He quoted from the oldest law in the world, from the second Book of the Old Testament, Exodus.  The full quote was, “If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”  (Exodus 21:23-25.)

Such a “law” today seems cruel, even in a sometimes cruel world, but it was originally meant to limit vengeance as a first step towards mercy.  The law itself was not normally taken literally but served as a guide for a judge in a court of law for assessing punishment for a particular crime.  In a way, it makes sense.

As I mentioned earlier, Jesus does something quite remarkable and unheard of.  He transforms the law of mercy with grace and loving kindness.  He also makes clear that there is no room for retaliation.  We must not only avoid returning evil for evil, but we must seek the good of those who wish us ill or even harm.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies but He didn’t say it was going to be easy.  We don’t have to like what they do, but when we love our enemies, it reminds us of our humanity, of how connected we all are, of how we are all one.  Unfortunately, when we hate our enemies it makes us vulnerable because we often like to wrap ourselves in indignation and scorn for others.  We need to take off those layers and look for that child of God, for we each are a temple of God.  Sometimes we have to foolish and actually find wisdom.  We can be afraid to let go of those layers in order to love our enemies.  But by opening ourselves up, by dropping that shield of contempt, we can embrace our better selves.

Sisters and brothers, in this often competitive, modern world of technology we make people, weather we may realize it or not, our enemies at every turn.  We cannot help but be frustrated with the person who cuts us off in traffic or the behavior of an annoying co-worker, classmate or neighbor who frustrates us on a regular basis.  We must feel that we can turn the other cheek and love our enemies every single day.  All we have to remember is that God is in the details.  We are all reminded of this in today’s Gospel acclamation, ‘Whoever keeps the word of Christ, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”  Alleluia!

Incidentally, my favorite movie is – every single movie John Wayne ever made.

Question of the Day:  Will you heed the words of our Lord as he asks us to, “Love one another even as I have loved you?” 

Prayer: Lord God, calm my soul so that I may silently listen to and treasure Your Holy Word.

Prosit 

Deacon Anthony J. Cincotta

Assistant Director for Retreat Ministry

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