7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13 (8a)
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
February 19, 2023
Today is our last Sunday before we begin Lent. The readings are picked for Ordinary Time but they give us some good “food for thought” as we prepare to begin Lent.
In Leviticus we hear the Lord’s words, “Be holy, for I, the LORD, am holy.” During Lent we are called to think about our sins and what we need to change in our lives to come closer to God. We are to ask ourselves how are we to be “holy.”
In Leviticus the Lord gives us guidance on what it means to be holy. The Lord tells us, “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.” No hatred.
A footnote I read in the New American Bible Revised Edition says to be holy is to keep God’s precepts. What does Jesus tell us the greatest commandments are? To love God and to love our neighbor. Hatred is contrary to love.
In love we may need to “reprove” our fellow citizens but we should not “incur sin because of him,” meaning they may upset us with wrongful acts but we should not let that make us angry. The Lord continues, “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge.” Revenge is based on anger. To hold a grudge to hold onto anger. We may feel justified in our anger but to hold onto our anger hurts us because it takes the place meant for love in our heart.
As the psalm tells us, the Lord is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness. Not according to our sins does he deal with us.” When we sin, we seek forgiveness from the Lord. He is eager to forgive us. If we expect to be forgiven, we need to forgive others their trespasses. After all, we say we will forgive others every time we say the “Our Father.”
Paul also speaks of holiness in today’s second reading. He speaks of us as temples of God. We are temples of God because the “Spirit of God” dwells in us. Because we are temples of God, we are “holy” for, as the footnote to this verse in the New American Bible Revised Edition says, to be holy is to belong to God.
In belonging to God, we are called to give up earthly wisdom as foolishness to embrace the wisdom of God.
Secular dictionaries define “holy” as belonging to God or being devoted entirely to God. Are you “devoted entirely” to God or is there something in your life keeping you from God? Is it something you are being called to change for Lent?
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus does not use the word “holy.” He tells us, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
How are we to be perfect? I suspect many of you hear the word “perfect” and think of making no mistakes and/or having nothing wrong with us. Yet, as sinners, we know we do make mistakes, we sin. We are not perfect in this sense.
As I opened my Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1984), its first definition of perfect is “lacking nothing essential to the whole.”
What is the “wholeness” of God? “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). To be perfect as our “heavenly Father is perfect” is to love.
Our love is not perfect but Jesus guides to what it means to love. He speaks of the Old Testament verse, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This verse can be interpreted to approve of revenge but we already heard that the Lord tells us in Leviticus, “Take no revenge.” God prescribed “an eye for an eye…” to limit our response. Now, Jesus goes so far as to say, “offer no resistance to one who is evil.” He tells us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us. This verse is not about self-defense. It is to teach us not to escalate the anger.
When someone strikes us, we should ask ourselves what response is going to make the situation better. Responding with hatred only serves to escalate the violence. It is better to respond with love.
This is why Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Love can make things better.
Jesus also tells us to pray for those who persecute us. If we want them to change, we must pray for them. If we want them to love us, we must show them love.
So, on Wednesday we begin Lent. We will receive ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our repentance, our desire to change.
What are you going to do for Lent to become more “holy”?
Will you come to Mass every Sunday to keep the Sabbath holy?
If you are able and don’t already, how about coming to daily Mass regularly for Lent? If you can’t come everyday, how about once a week?
Of course, some of you work or are in school, so you can’t come to daily Mass at all. How about coming to the Holy Hours we will have each Friday during Lent at 7 pm?
If you are not used to praying everyday, maybe you can give God five minutes of prayer at home each day.
Give the time to God and He will make you holy.