7th Sunday in OT (February 19, 2017)

7th Sunday in OT (February 19, 2017)

Late one night, a truck driver pulled into a roadside café for a little something to eat. As he was eating, three nasty-looking motorcyclists noisily strutted in and made their way to the counter. For some unknown reason they gravitated toward the truck driver. One poured a little salt on his head, another knocked his pie on the floor, and the third managed to knock the trucker’s coffee off the counter and into the man’s lap.  The truck driver got up, said nothing, paid his bill and made his exit. “That dude sure wasn’t much of a fighter,” sneered one of the bikers. The waiter peered out of the window onto the dark parking lot and answered, “He’s not much of a driver either. He just ran over three motorcycles.”  [taken from Fr. Joe Robinson, The Soul Who Could, pg. 46-47]

Things like revenge are no doubt easy things for all of us to get caught up in.  Revenge certainly makes for good drama.  How many stories are out there that deal with some kind of revenge as part of the plot?  Just a few years ago there was even a whole drama series called Revenge.  The idea of revenge can easily touch our minds and hearts.  And in a way it makes sense; it seems fair—you do wrong by me (or my loved ones), and I’ll do wrong by you.  Of course, we can see how this could get ugly fast.  And so that old rule “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was actually put in place in order to limit escalating feuds, runaway retaliation, and limitless violence.

Yet Jesus came to usher in a whole new way of being.  He says to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  We can think of ‘perfect’ here as ‘whole’ or ‘complete.’  And what is God wholly and completely?  God is wholly and completely love—perfect love, which sets no limits.  So the call that we have in imitating (in sharing!) the very life of God is this radical, revolutionary call to perfect love.  But it is this love that enables us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Jesus’ words, too, hearken back to the words of the Lord in Leviticus: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”  ‘Holy’ can be defined (at least in part) as ‘set apart’ or ‘other.’  God’s ways/God’s life/God’s love is certainly “other” than what our tendencies can bring.  And since God is “set apart” by this other way of being, then we too, if we’re to be people of God, are to be set apart for a whole other way of being. 

So what does all this mean?  What does this look like?  As we hear, “You shall not bear hatred…take no revenge and cherish no grudge…love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus says, “[L]ove [even] your enemies…For if you [just] love those who love you, what recompense will you have?”  While we may not like what other people do—and perhaps rightly so—do we allow ourselves to harbor or be caught up in things like hatred, desire for revenge, grudges, resentment, and curses?  Do we just love those who love us—or who are like us—or are we willing to answer that challenging call to love (to desire the good) for all, including those who are different from us, who might look and sound different, who might hail from a different place, who may believe different things?  While we may not agree with everything—and perhaps even rightly so—are we at least desiring for them what is truly good in life, just as God does?

The other day I did a little 3-question interview for a student at St. Paul High School for a class project.  His first question was rather profound: “Why is there a separation between what people believe and how they act?”  I won’t rehash all my thoughts on that, but I think a great answer is found in the question we see Paul pose to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?...for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” 

The student’s second question was also a great one: “How can the Sacraments help to mend this separation?”  The Sacraments, of course, more than anything else, are the ways that God chooses to put His own divine life of love within us.  The grace of the Sacraments also enables us to participate in the saving power and wisdom of the Cross of Jesus Christ.  And so, dear brothers and sisters, as we approach the Lord today, let us allow Him to transform us more and more into being the sons and daughters of the Lord who is kind and merciful, of the God who is holy in His perfect love.