February 19, 2023: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
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.”
In this selection from Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus continues to teach the way of discipleship. It is a radical call. A difficult lesson for our 21st century minds to absorb. We must not retaliate if attacked. We must give more than we are asked. We must go further than the minimum necessary. And we must love our enemies.
But those who are called to follow Jesus must go beyond the way of the world usually works and serve God here on earth if we are to be with God in eternity. We won’t be perfect in our efforts to do as Jesus teaches but it is in continually striving for that perfection, for completeness in our relationship with God, that we fulfill our duties as disciples and fulfill Jesus’ command to love God and our neighbor.
This week, we begin the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Usually considered a season of personal sacrifice, of giving something up, of sacrificing something we enjoy to be closer to Jesus on the way to Calvary.
That is a worthy Lenten practice but why not take on something as well?
Take on a practice or attitude that you can carry beyond the celebration of Easter. Begin by reading Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel slowly and thoughtfully in the days before Lent begins.
Consider what changes of adjustments the teachings of Jesus in this chapter are calling you to make in your life and in your heart. Then work on making those changes during Lent so that they become permanent.