7th Sunday in Ordinary Time:-Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“To Love All As God Does”!
It is important to link the Gospel of today with the first reading, which speaks of the need to be holy because God is holy.
The Book of Leviticus specifies what the ‘holiness’ that the Lord demands is: not a show of religiosity, but love for one another.
The Gospel tells us that the holiness consists in being like the Father who is in heaven … with all the practical consequences that flow from being children of God. Why, then, does Jesus demand that a person should have this love? The reason is simple and tremendous. It is that love that makes us become like God. Here we have the ‘key’ to one of the most difficult sentences in the New Testament. Jesus said, “You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The second reading replies to the objection: “But isn’t what Jesus proposes sheer madness?” Yes, it is foolish for people, but it is “wisdom” for God.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18.
In the reading of today we hear God asking his people to be ‘holy’. By this he means that the people must be different, separated from the other people. Before the coming of Jesus, the most widely held opinion was that to be holy, the people of Israel had to be as withdrawn as possible from everybody else, even physically. They believed that they were not allowed to enter the houses of non-Jews or take meals with them. They could not even shake hands with them. They were to stress how much holier they were compared to others.
They would call others “dogs”! Besides keeping their distance from the pagans, the Hebrews considered themselves holy because they were keeping all the 613 laws called the ‘Mitzvot’ and the many traditions of their ancestors. This being the way of thinking at that time, we may be surprised to hear that the text of today taken from the Book of Leviticus sees “holiness” in a completely different way.
There was to be no physical separation from other people, no observance of special laws and norms; in order to be holy all that the Hebrews had to do was to lead a life different from that of others. Such a life, however, was to follow certain directives: do not bear hatred for your brother, do not bear grudges, and do not exact vengeance and finally, “love your neighbour as yourself” (17-18). This is the highest point ever reached by the ‘moral law’ in the Old Testament.
If we compare it to the love for one’s brother and sister preached by Jesus, this Old Testament norm is much more limited: it is not asking for a universal love, it is still restricted to the people of Israel only.
Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13.
The Psalm is a thanksgiving for recovery from sickness. Many qualities of God are listed. His name is holy. This holiness expresses itself in his covenant virtues (Ex 34:6), which make him ready to forgive sin (Joel 2:13), a father with compassion for his sons (Lk 15:20).
1 Corinthians 3:16-23.
Why were there conflicts in Corinth? Why were they divided? The reason is very simple: the members of the community did not love one another; they considered one another as adversaries, not as brothers. This situation worries Paul and in order to underline its gravity, he uses the image of the ‘Temple of God’ (16-17).
The community is like a holy building inhabited by God; the Christians are the bricks of this building. Divisions, rivalries and conflicts are like a bomb placed in the foundations of a building, or like white ants that attack the poles supporting the hut, destroying it in a short time.
In the second part of the reading (18-23), Paul talks again about the contrast between the “wisdom of God” and the “wisdom of people.” The conflicts in the community of Corinth stem from the fact that its members are after the “wisdom of people”, for the way people think is not God’s way.
Paul had already said in his letter that the Gospel is “madness in the eyes of men” (1:18, 21, 23). Today he tells us that the wisdom and the cunning of people are just foolishness in the eyes of God (19). These reflections of Paul prepare us to listen to the new and provocative instructions that Jesus offers us today in the Gospel.
Today’s Gospel focuses on two issues: what to do to somebody who wrongs us and how to relate to people we do not love and to people who are enemies. The Law was clear on these two issues. In Jesus’ teaching a new attitude is proposed.
The disciple has to learn to overcome evil not with an evil proportionate to the first evil, but rather with ‘good’. The disciple is invited to love all, friends and enemies alike, as God loves everybody without discrimination. The saying “an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth” is called the Law of Retaliation”. Today, we may think it is a very cruel law; in fact back at the time of writing it meant progress, intended, as it was, to limit revenge, protect the offender against punishment greater than the crime itself. The Mosaic laws seek to measure vengeance proportionately but it does not seek to overcome evil with good.
On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proposes to offer the other cheek or to go the extra mile with somebody or to lend to those who ask is not a sign of weakness or of resignation. Jesus wants us to break the ‘spiral of violence’ by changing the mentality and the hearts of our enemies and ourselves. The vicious circle of evil can only be broken if one party in the chain of revenge consciously decides to act differently.
Martin Luther King once said: “An eye for an eye and the whole world would go blind”. That is our big challenge. The Old Testament invited the Jews to love their ‘neighbour’, that is one’s fellow Jew and even to apply the same law to foreigners living with them. It was generally understood that love of one’s neighbour was limited in the first place to members of one’s family, clan or tribe.
Here again Jesus breaks new ground. He invites us to love in a way that knows no barriers of race or culture, colour or class. His ministry is in itself living proof of this type of love. This invitation to unlimited love features in the entire New Testament. Real love demands that we are ready to give up our lives for others. Love of the ‘other who is visible’ is the only way of being certain that we ‘love the invisible God’.
The Church urges Christians ‘to be committed to living Christ’s love for everybody, a love which transcends the limits of the natural solidarity clans, tribes or other interest groups’. This is a test of whether we are truly followers of Jesus, not only in word but also in reality.
The spirituality of the ‘Cross’ leads us to accept Jesus’ radical teachings. In his suffering and death, the power of God was revealed – in other words victory came through failure and loss. Resurrection and new life came from that victory. We cannot become mature Christians unless we learn the lesson of the ‘Cross’. When the ‘Mystery of the Cross’ has become part of our lives, it will only be then that offering the ‘other cheek’, ‘walking the extra mile’, even ‘loving one’s enemy’ – becomes possible. The personal sacrifice involved in doing these things is what the Gospel means by ‘losing oneself and gaining the whole world’. That’s the journey that Jesus is inviting us to travel in today’s Gospel.
The words of Jesus that we find in today’s Gospel reject in the most unequivocal and absolute way the use of any violence. A true Christian substitutes violence with love.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … Holiness does not mean being observant of certain standards of personal behaviour, or keeping certain precepts and rules; rather, holiness means being like God. “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy”. We are called to nothing less than likeness to God.
Mon. … What is it like to be holy like God? A divine being called ‘Love’ has no room for hatred, vengeance, and bitterness. If we were able to keep our hearts free from the choking effect of these negative conditions, we might have an experience of holiness that would bring us closer to the nature of God.
Tue. … The first reading concludes with the rationale: The reason why we must not hate or harm our neighbour, and why we must love our neighbour as ourselves is because that’s the way the Lord treats our neighbour. God is our Lord and Master, and God wants us to be like him, holy, forgiving and loving.
Wed. … Paul instructs us to go against this flow of worldly reasoning. If we love the world’s esteem, we can be assured to gain nothing of true value. Christ is our real treasure for the future, our model for life. No Temple has ever been built on firmer ground.
Thur. … The teaching about an ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ was given to the Israelites to put a limit on retaliation. The punishment was not to exceed the harm done. For Jesus even the teaching of Leviticus is not good enough. You can’t just refrain from harm to someone who has harmed you; Jesus calls us to do good in return for harm and to give more than is asked. Let us pray for the grace to carry out this act of ultimate love.
Frid. … Jesus asks us to be perfect. He asks us to measure ourselves, not against each other or a misunderstood commandment, but against the ‘ideal of love’. The standard of love is an everlasting stretch, growth without end and a journey with an elastic horizon.
Sat. … Jesus did not see the turning of the other cheek and praying for persecutors as a limp and weak response to opposition. The crucifixion was not a sign of ‘surrender’ but a victory. The stark courage of not returning evil for evil invites the conversion of the enemy. Unmerited compassion and forgiveness can turn a stone heart to flesh. That is the legacy of the ‘Cross’ that all Christians must put into practice.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, You call on us today to reflect on Your perfect love, even when we are faced with hatred and injustice. Grant us the grace and Your will to act positively towards all others, regardless of what treatment we may encounter.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.