Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Love frees us from hate; it gives us peace!

“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… 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… So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Once I received a message from a dear friend who works for the armed forces. He asked me if I could find a leader of their enemy and to pray over this man so there would be an end to their group. I just said yes. I’d do that if the opportunity presents itself. I was not sure if he was serious about it, for this was no easy task. However, reading behind the lines I could sense that my friend had enough of all the troubles and fighting.

The readings for this Sunday made me recall our exchange of messages. It speaks of a way of life of a Christian, that is to be a person of love, holiness, and peace.

In the first reading, in the book of Leviticus, God spoke to Moses. He asked him to speak to the Israelites to love their neighbor as themselves. This is a command that all should take to heart: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy… you shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart… You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Holiness means that the people of Israel are distinct and separate from the world. This holiness must be seen in their behavior toward their neighbor. A behavior that is loving.

The second reading echoes this call to holiness. St. Paul tells his listeners that they are temples of God, and that the spirit of God dwells in them. In the past, the temple is seen to be God’s dwelling place. Understandably, this is a holy place. Paul uses this imagery for the church. The church is not about only its physical structure made of stones, bricks and concrete. No, it is also about people. Later, Paul uses this imagery to point to the individual as a holy dwelling place of the Spirit of God. Thus saying, that anything contrary to what God wants is a defilement of the temple. Fighting and hate which fuels disunity is also against the wishes of God. This holiness must be seen in the way Christians live their lives.

The Gospel is the expansion of the commandment to love one’s neighbor. Jesus expanded it to include one’s enemies. His teaching to love one’s enemy is not only radical; it is something new for his hearers then. The sermon of the mount to be found in Matthew chapter five is full of anti-theses. Jesus first tells his listeners about certain Jewish commandments and then he ‘perfects’ them with his way of fulfilling the law. Just like the example of the Gospel readings: “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.” Jesus somehow challenges us to go beyond what is expected of us in our interactions with one another. It is challenging to show limitless love to the point of loving one’s enemies.

Over breakfast, I talked about this commandment of Jesus with some colleagues from work. One lady said, “It’s not happening in real life.” I thought at first, she may be right. But then I recalled an event that happened last year.

Amber Guyger, a white police officer shot her black neighbor Botham Jean after mistaking him for an intruder. The powerful moment of Christian love and forgiveness came inside the courtroom where she was tried. The victim’s brother, Brandt Jean asked the judge if he can hug his brother’s killer. By grace the judge obliged. He told her, “If you truly are sorry, I forgive you. And I know, if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I’m speaking for myself, not my family, but I love you just like anyone else. I am not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did. I want the best for you. I don’t even want you to go to jail.” The judge gave the killer a bible: “You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith. You start with this.” She also hugged her. She was still sentenced to jail, yet the event inside that courtroom proved how true and powerful the words of Jesus are. Even up to this present day, it can move us to be true Christians. To be incredible witnesses of love, holiness and peace. Pope Francis says, “praying for our enemies is a journey of healing… every heart wounded by sin, must undertake this journey of healing to be more like our heavenly Father who is perfect…the power of prayer will do two things: it will change that person for the better and it will make us become more like children of our heavenly Father.” Amen.

Fr. Marc Louie M. Calo, MSP

MSP Seminary Tagaytay City

22/ 2/ 2020

 


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