7th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle A — 2017

FIRST READING                 Leviticus   19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:  Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.  “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.  Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him.  Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD.”

SECOND READING                        1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters:  Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.  Let no one deceive himself.

If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.  So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future:  all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

GOSPEL                                 Matthew 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.  If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well.  Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles.  Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.  “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?  So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

The First Letter to the Corinthians, from which our second reading today is taken, tells us:  “You are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you.”  If we can understand this reality today, our lives will be changed and transformed.

Jesus gives us strong teachings so that we can truly be children of God.  It is never enough that Jesus loves us.  We must respond to that love, however imperfectly we respond.  The love of Jesus for us is a love that is inviting our response each day and inviting us to be transformed and changed forever.

The first reading today is from the Book of Leviticus.  This reading tells us to be holy because God is holy.  More than that, the reading tells us what it means to be holy:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Far too often we forget that holiness is fairly simple:  Love for God and love for our neighbor.  We try to make ourselves holy in lots of ways, often with prayers and good practices.  That is fine.  What God wants is a heart and actions that love Him and love everyone else who comes into our lives.

The second reading tells us again that we are temples of the Holy Spirit.  If we belong to the Holy Spirit, then there are ways of acting that are good for the temple and ways of acting that can destroy the temple.  The only way to live is to be wise in the ways of this God who loves us!

Matthew’s Gospel today teaches us the wisdom of Jesus Christ:  don’t resist evil, turn the other cheek, give more than is asked and love your enemies.  This is the way to live God’s mystery here on earth.  If we want to be perfect, then we must follow the example of our heavenly Father.

The example of our heavenly Father is always this:  love.  Love is for everyone and without conditions.  Love is especially for those who hate us.  Love is for all and is what brings about the Kingdom of God.  This is love is not a love that feels good about others but is rather a love that chooses the good of others consistently.  This is a strong love that can transform us personally and can transform the whole world.

It is not easy to love as God loves!  This form of loving will demand all of our energy and all of strength in our lives.  Yes it will draw us completely into God and into the Kingdom.  May we have the wisdom to love this way.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip