7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today’s First Reading from Chapter 19 of the Book of Leviticus teaches us that the spirit of charity makes it impossible for the spirits of enmity, revenge, and grudge bearing to dwell within us. Charity requires that fraternal correction be made when necessary. If the spirits of enmity, revenge and grudge bearing dwell in us, then they coexists with the spirit of hatred towards others. If the spirit of hatred is within us, then we are living in sin.
Today’s Second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians [1 Cor. 3:16-23] reminds us of the division that dwelled in the Corinthian Church during the first century. When Paul said, “Do you not know that you are God’s Temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”, he was speaking of two Temples. First of all, the Corinthian community was a Temple of God, because the Divine Spirit dwelled in it. Secondly, the Holy Spirit dwelled in all those who had been baptized.
Now these two Temples, within the community and within each individual were being destroyed by division. Some of the Christians claimed to belong to Paul, others to Apollos. Who were Saint Paul and Apollos? They were nothing, merely human servants of the Church in the Name of Jesus Christ. In their vain and merely human appraisal of the ministers of the Gospel the Corinthian were displaying their foolishness, judging by the wisdom of the world. No Christian should glory in men, calling himself a disciple of any preacher, to the detriment of the unity of the Church. The ministers of the Gospel are for the faithful, not the faithful for them.
Paul made a very powerful statement when he said, “If anyone destroys God’s Temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s Temple is holy, and you are that Temple. Nowadays, there are many whose actions are causing division in the Church. Those who reject doctrinal teachings of the Church on matters of abortion, birth control, the death penalty, same sex marriage, etc… causing confusion within the faithful and finally division. Remember, ‘If anyone destroys God’s Temple, God will destroy that person.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we belong to Christ, who in turn belongs to God. The Christian dominates the world and its happenings. Through faith and hope, he already shares in the triumph of the Lord.
Today’s Reading from the Gospel of Matthew has to do with retaliation versus loving one’s enemy.
Making reference to OT passages, Jesus said, you have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
The law of revenge was an ancient custom of the Near East that protected individuals by obliging the next of kin to avenge injury or murder or to purchase property to pay the debts of a kinsman.
My brothers and sisters, no one needs to be instructed to hate his enemies. But, we do need to be reminded to love our enemies. The meaning of the word “neighbor” as found in the Book of Leviticus is a reference to one’s group or fellowship: one’s village or town, one’s religion or nation, one’s tribe or race. In many languages the same word is used to designate “stranger,” “foreigner,” or “enemy.” The enemy is specified in the Gospel of Matthew as the persecutor, probably a flection of the experience of the early Church. The disciples were taught to show the same indifference to friends and enemies that God shows in his distribution of sunshine and rain; in exhibiting this godlike providence they vindicate their title of sons of God. Love within one’s group or fellowship is merely a natural and universal human trait. But by implementing this kind of love, a forgiving love, the disciples were being perfected as the heavenly Father is perfect.
Let us remember this week to “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Let us pray for each other that we may all have the strength to forgive our enemies so we may be perfected by the power of the Holy Spirit in the most Holy Name of Jesus for the glory of God the Father.
Fr. A. Francis HGN