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Friday, 17 February 2017

7th Sunday of Year A 2017

7th Sunday (Year A)
(Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18; First Corinthians 3:16-23; St. Matthew 5:38-48)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, those opening words recalled by Jesus are somewhat blood-chilling to our ears:
                You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’,
However, they were actually intended, we are told, to keep retribution/revenge -- which the Law, as you heard in our first reading, Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people, condemned – within practically containable limits, so to speak.
The middle-eastern propensity to unbridled and endless revenge – still so bitterly afflicting peoples living in those regions today – was thus opposed by divine revelation from the beginning and that is why Jesus Himself said repeatedly:
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.  (Matthew 6:14-15)

In our Gospel reading … remember, as I mentioned last week, that Matthew’s Gospel was meant for his own congregation of former Jewish believers and synagogue worshippers now converting to Christianity … Jesus is shown as advancing in that divine opposition to revenge, by encouraging His hearers to try to avoid any actions that might give rise even to retaliation, in order that the ever-present danger of revenge might be the more carefully avoided:

When someone strikes you on your right cheek --don’t hit him back! -- turn the other one as well. ….

Jesus went on to declare in the same way:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy; but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Now, there is no O.T. biblical text that commands hatred of one’s enemy; which shows that Jesus was relating to, and quoting, current words and popular attitudes, which He then went on to ameliorate by proposing a preferable attitude for such situations; He was not prescribing detailed procedures to be carried out literally in His name:
Notice also that Jesus’ words are chosen/adapted by Matthew for his own particular congregation when He continues:
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/Gentiles do the same?
Former Pharisees and practicing Jews would feel at ease with such references to very old adversaries!  And even Jesus’ last quoted words are ideally suited for a Jewish/Christian congregation:
                So be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect;
being easily acceptable -- and to a measure more readily understandable -- for those who had previously sought for perfection under the Jewish Law.
So, People of God, we must be aware that Matthew In his Gospel was trying to help former Jews/Pharisees to become fully Christian; and we, for our part, must not in any way allow those of our times who no longer have any Catholic /Christian faith and have acquired, adopted, lots of edge against it and opposition to its propagation, to suggest that Jesus in today’s Gospel passage is wanting to make us into Christian Pharisees!!
Jesus later on, when Himself addressing the Rich Young Man who wanted to be perfect, said, again according to St. Matthew (19:21):
If you wish to be perfect (same word as earlier), go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, FOLLOW ME.
Perfection for Christians is a gift, not an acquisition; and it is given by the Father through the Spirit to those whosoever, humbly and totally loving the Person of Jesus, obey Him whole-heartedly in His Church working for the redemption of mankind and the glory of God.   As St. Paul said:
Everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos or Cephas (that is, the Church), 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.