Fr Thainese Homily for 2/19/2017

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7th Sunday-A

Lev 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48

                                                            Called to Be Perfect

It is easy to be nice and kind to those who are kind to us, but it not so with those who are nasty and hurt us; we may not hesitate to retaliate to them. Retaliation is the law of the jungle–animals do that! But as human beings, as people of faith, we are challenged to be good, to forgive those who hurt us. It is said, only a strong person can forgive! Today’s liturgical readingsinvites us to be always the first movers in forgiveness, to be generous beyond measure in being reconciled to the one who has wronged us. We are challenged to go beyond what the law requires of us.

1. One step further: We continue to meditate on the teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. It is both a challenge and a source of inspiration at the same time. Man is created in the image and likeness of God, the creator. We are not able to holy and perfect because of our enmity, jealousy, lack of generosity, unwillingness to forgive, nurturing an attitude of retaliation. Amidst this gloomy life, what are we to do with those who seek to impose on us some form of violence? Are we to react and respond in the same way, as common sense suggests?Jesus says to turn the other cheek to one who strikes on one cheek, to giveyour cloak to one who takes your coat, and to go an extra mile with one who forces you to go one mile.


Apparently, Jesus is asking to renounce any kind of resistance, but in reality they are attitudes inviting reflection on the part of those involved in those situations.As in the entire Sermon on the Mount, the question is to go one step farther, with a new orientation. Everyone, including the offender, must recognize that he/she is a child of God and called to become perfect and holy. The motivation for our non-retaliation is love. Ordinary logic would have us love those who are good to us and keep our distance from those who dislike us. But Jesus challenges us to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us. This requirement is based on the very example of God the Father, who considers everyone, the good and the evil, as his children.


2. A hard stuff!Jesus practiced the virtue of love and forgiveness, the apostles bore witnesses to it and scores of people on this earth have marvellously lived it.The first reading gives the holiness code: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” It also gives us the way to share God’s holiness: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” The responsorial Psalm challenges us to be like our God, kind and merciful and forgiving. In the second reading, St. Paul gives us an additional reason to be holy. We are to keep our bodies holy because we are the temples of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God lives in us.


It is incredible to know some of the life stories of some popular people who set an example to the challenging words of Jesus.In those days when St. Teresa of Calcutta,after coming out of Loretta convent,was nursing some abandoned children; she needed some groceries; she went to the market in the city of Calcutta and asked a shop owner to give some rice extending her right hand. The man was not willing to give her anything; she persisted in asking; having been irritated he spited on her hand. “This is for me”, she said; then she extended her left hand and asked something for her children. That store keeper gave her all that she needed for the children. It is hard stuff to take! Isn’t it?

3. A better way!Nelson Mandela spent over twenty-seven years in South African prison. When he was finally released, he had every reason to feel bitter, and to come out vowing to get revenge on those who unjustly deprived him of his freedom. Instead, he came out smiling, and seeking reconciliation with the leaders of the regime that had put him in prison. Thus he became the cornerstone of a new South Africa. If he had harboured bitterness, who knows what would have happened? In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, he tells us: “I knew that people expected me to harbour anger against whites. But I had none. In prison, my anger towards whites decreased, but my hatred for the system grew. I wanted South Africa to see that I loved even my enemies while I hated the system that turned us against one another. I saw my mission as one of preaching reconciliation, of healing the old wounds and building a new South Africa.” He set an example to live in a better way in this world!


4. Retaliation or Reconciliation! One day a truck driver stopped at a restaurant for dinner and ordered a steak. Before he could eat it, a motorcycle gang walked in. They took the man’s steak, cut it into six pieces, and ate it. The driver said nothing. He simply paid the bill and walked out. One of the gang members said, “That man didn’t say a word.” Another one said, “He didn’t show any resistance.” Another one added, “I would say that he couldn’t drive either.”But to their unbelief, on his way out of the parking lot, he ran over six motorcycles crushing all of them. Something in us loves that story, because we like retaliation. But in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus prescribes forgiving love as the Christian trump card.

Martin Luther King, Jr. would often tell during his fight for civil rights, “The goal is reconciliation and redemption.” He took this principle from the Sermon on the Mount and used it to revolutionize America. He used to say, “No man can pull me down so low as to make me hate him.” “The real goal”, he said, “was not to defeat the oppressor, but to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor and to challenge his false sense of superiority.” The words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount which Martin Luther King paraphrased and lived is a challenge to examine ourselves in this weekend.

Perfection or holiness is a process which we could achieve only by overcoming the negative elements. Some who strive towards it and achieve what may be the obstacles on their way.But while some do not persevere some do not even try for it. We will have to take a decision today whether, at least, take effort towards that perfection.

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