Lev 19:1-2, 17-18
The writer reminds his fellow Israelites of their call to live a holy life. He then tells us, his readers, that a life of holiness is manifested through acts of love, mercy and kindness, particularly towards those who have hurt us.
“Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” — Lev 19:12b (NAB)
The Lord is kind and merciful
This Psalm sings the praises of a God of mercy.
The speaker in this hymn begins by praising God for personal benefits (Ps 103:1–5), then moves on to God’s mercy toward all the people (Ps 103:6–18). Even sin cannot destroy that mercy (Ps 103:11–13), for the eternal God is well aware of the people’s human fragility (Ps 103:14–18). The psalmist invites the heavenly beings to join in praise (Ps 103:19–22). (Source: NAB notes).
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” — Ps 103:12-13 (NAB)
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
The temple of God
Paul is warning those who are endangering the unity of the community by their words and deeds that they will be severely punished for their divisive behavior. “If anyone destroys God’s Temple (i.e., the Body of Christ), God will destroy him.” Paul goes on to debunk human wisdom which the Corinthians boast about. He tells his readers: “The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? — 1 Cor 3:16 (NAB)
Retaliation and attitude toward enemies
This is a continuation of last week’s Gospel in which Jesus changes the way the Jews should live the Torah, the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Two issues are addressed: retaliation and attitude toward enemies. He tells them how disciples should deal with personal offenses: “You have heard it said: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But what I say to you is this: offer no resistance to one who is evil.” In our efforts to be faithful to this command of the Lord, we should make a distinction between violent and non-violent resistance, the latter having been the tactic used very effectively by people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King. We can and should use every kind of non-violent resistance to those who mistreat us.
Commenting on these verses, Margaret Nutting Ralph writes:
This teaching of Jesus is not asking the disciples to do harm to themselves by remaining in an abusive situation. Nor is it suggesting that they stand by unmoved while a third party is mistreated. Jesus’ words do not address either of those situations. Rather, it is teaching them that they must not adopt the methods of evildoers by acting in kind, nor may they relieve themselves of their responsibility to give witness to God’s love in situations where the other person is failing to love them.
(Excerpt from Breaking Open the Lectionary, Cycle A, by Margaret Nutting Ralph copyright © 2007 by Margaret Nutting Ralph. Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. http://www.paulistpress.com)
Jesus goes on to say that we must not only love our friends but also our enemies, for God’s light shines on the good as well as the bad. As stated above, no matter how a person treats Jesus’ followers, they must continue to treat every other person with love.While dying on the Cross, Jesus loved his enemies by forgiving them. With God’s grace, we can do the same. (For more on this issue, see Fr. Tobin’s book How to Forgive Yourself and Others.)
Today’s Gospel ends with the words: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Here Jesus is holding up God’s love as a model for his disciples’ love. It is a concluding statement to the words about God allowing his sun to shine on the good and the bad. In a similar way, disciples must seek to act on a godlike way with all people, loving the bad as well as the good.
“Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” — Mt 5:48 (NAB)
1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?
2. What is your definition of holiness? What are some traits of a holy person?
3. If we are very conscious that we and others are a temple of the Holy Spirit, how might that impact the way we relate to ourselves and to others?
4. What helps you to love those who hurt you? Concretely, what might it mean for you to offer non-violent resistance to people who mistreat you on a regular basis?
5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.
Call to Action
Name one way you can put into action the messages of today’s readings.
Jesus, there’s so much violence in our world and so much negative and divisive talk on television, and maybe in our lives. Help me to only speak words that build others up and to avoid words that cause division and hurt.
Holy God, You call us to be holy for you are holy.Holiness means we live the way of Jesus. This comforts us at times, and challenges us deeply at other times. Open my mind and heart to your Spirit within so that my struggle to walk Jesus’ talk can make what seems impossible possible and worth the effort. Amen.
Sunday Reflection Excerpts
EXCERPT — Today’s readings make even more difficult demands on us regarding our behavior as Christians. We live in a culture where there is so much rhetoric about protecting oneself and one’s property, about guns and gated communities. How do we reconcile this with Jesus’ call to turn the other cheek and love one’s enemy? What does it take to embrace these teachings, which many of us — quite honestly — find foolish?
NCR SUNDAY RESOURCES – Joan DeMerchant
EXCERPT — A hero of nonviolence, Martin Luther King, wrote: “The oceans of history are made turbulent by the flow of always insurrecting revenge. Man never raised above the commandment of the lex talionis: “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” In spite of the fact that the law of revenge does not solve any social problem, people continue to pursue its disastrous leadership. The story echoes the noise of the ruin of nations and individuals who have followed this self-destructive path. Jesus from the cross stated eloquently a higher law. He knew that the old law eye for an eye would make all blind, and did not try to overcome evil with evil: He won over evil with good. Crucified by hate, He responded with aggressive love.
THE ORDER OF CARMELITES – Lectio
EXCERPT — In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales observed: “Nothing so quickly calms down an angry elephant as the sight of a little lamb (writer’s note: you go first!); nothing so easily breaks the force of a cannon ball as wool. We do not set much value on correction that comes from anger – even when accompanied by reason – as to that which comes from reason alone. When princes visit their people with a peaceable retinue they honor them and cause them great joy, but when they come at the head of armies – even though for the common good – their visits are always disagreeable and harmful. In like manner, as long as reason rules and peaceably chastises, corrects and warns – even though severely and exactly – everyone loves and approves it.” (Part III, Ch. 8)
OBLATES – Homily Helps Feed
EXCERPT — Turn the other cheek to a bully; give all you have to those who don’t need it; walk the extra mile by submitting to callous, unjust law enforcement. Those injunctions, especially when heard at the end of Black History Month, sound like they come straight out of the slave overseers’ catechism. They assure the dominance of the strong and the subservience of the weak. That makes them applicable across the centuries and in just about every culture as the tenets of tyrants. Did Jesus mean it?
NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER – Mary M. McGlone, CSJ
EXCERPT — In the preaching and prayers this weekend, we might focus on the different circles of loving to which we are called: family and friends, neighbors and fellow worshippers, people of other races and ethnic groups, citizens of other nations, and even those we call our enemies. Planners could compose a whole set of petitions for the intercessions, guiding the assembly to pray for the ability to love in ever widening circles. There have been various stories in the news in recent years about people forgiving those who hurt them or their families. Search the web and recount one of those in the bulletin this week to help people see that this can happen in real life.
NCR SUNDAY RESOURCES – Fr. Lawrence E. Mick
EXCERPT — By telling his followers to turn the other cheek, Jesus calls on them to resist tendencies toward punishment. Implicitly, Jesus introduces the idea of reconciliation rather than retaliation. Jesus does not want his followers to be abused and taken advantage of, as the passage might suggest. When Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil” (Mt 5:39), he does not mean do nothing in the face of injustice. Instead, Jesus insists that his community reject and work against retaliation by focusing on love, an idea that he continues to develop in the following verses.
AMERICA MAGAZINE – Jamie Waters
EXCERPT — The demons of the world and of our hearts seduce us into thinking that the ways of God cannot be followed in this time-bound journey. Even the commands that the Lord gave to Moses seemed so impractical. “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” They were to have no hatred for brother or sister, to take no revenge, to cherish no grudge against fellow citizens, to love their neighbors as themselves. So the Israelites, like all nations, all peoples, weighed the shrewdness of the world, of self-defense, of retaliation, on a balance with the wisdom of God.
SUNDAY WEB SITE – John Kavanaugh, SJ