Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
Lev 19:1-2, 17-18, Psalm 50, 1 Cor 3:16-22, Mt 5:38-48
Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. Can we be surprised that they got angry with him and put him to death?Centuries later payback is still the way the game is played. Today’s gospel may be an invitation to look at where we are stuck in what doesn’t help us get out of the messes that afflict humanity and choose a different path.
Years ago someone told me Jesus is always turning things upside down. Loving the ones who hurt or disappoint you may seem foolish. Yet we are one with Christ and this second reading takes us through a reflection on belonging, which reminds us that the remedy for undoing a hurt may not be to inflict more hurt. When 9 people were murdered at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, during their bible study, their families began the press conference with words of forgiveness directed to the perpetrator. Not simply studying the Word, but living it. Today we note how Paul carefully reminds us you are God’s temple – God’s Spirit is within you. It’s all about living form the truth of who we really are. And monastic living strives for living in the truth of who God is and who we are which brings us to consider how we treat one another.
The incarnation reminds us that God chooses to enter all this imperfection and be with us in it. Greek philosophy speculated about the deity and presented God, arms folded at a distance, basically saying – I hope it all works out ok for you. In being born an infant in Bethlehem, Jesus is embracing all the consequences of imperfection and transforming it, inviting us to be one with him in bringing about the transformation. It is costly. One chooses to take this path because the awareness is so strong in us of what happens when you only choose to repay in kind. When you disentangle from getting stuck you can choose to forward out of the mess.
Hopefully we heard loud and clear in the first reading the teaching – you shall treat your neighbor as yourself. Scholars generally agree that this teaching developed over a long period of time, reaching its present form during the Persian Period, from 538–332 BC. The book of Leviticus is a series of teachings God gives Moses about relationship with God and each other. Jesus is well aware of this teaching and is building on it. And to the present day we find Jesus invites us to bring about the transformation that releases us by way of reconciling and salvific love. But it hinges on understanding who God is and who we are in Him. And it’s so much more than an idea, it’s a way of living.
We sang ‘the Lord is kind and merciful’ a few moments ago. Sadly that’s not always the way people find God being resented. Jesus invites us to become like him, the One who is feeding us here in Word and sacrament, sharing his love that we receive with everyone.