A Cycle – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time 23

A Cycle – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time 23

Mt. 5:38-48

Did you ever meet a perfect person?  I met some who thought they were perfect, but the truth is we all have flaws.  If we were perfect, we would not need therapists, doctors, or even God.  In our gospel today Jesus is continuing his most famous sermon to the multitude; the sermon on the mount.  In one sense Jesus during this long sermon is challenging every person from that day to today to understand one thing about ourselves and God’s plan for us.  In today’s gospel, Jesus continues to use the laws given to Moses to show us how we should use them.  He is telling us those laws are the training wheels for us to grow into holiness.  Like a kid learning to ride a bike depends on training wheels to help them learn to balance on two wheels and eventually ride without thinking about falling.

From the moment we begin to learn things about our faith we depend on the law to keep us from falling short of what is expected of us.  Yet, we know from experience that from time to time we do lose our balance and fall.  The Israelites of Jesus’s time like us today, had a process of atoning for our sins and getting back on track.  After they atoned for their sins, they continued to depend on the laws (training wheels) to keep us upright and acceptable to God.

Jesus is encouraging us to remove the training wheels because He has provided us with all we need to be “holy as the Lord God is holy.”  The first step in becoming ‘perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” is believing it is possible for us to achieve.  We can meet this higher standard because God has already given us all we need to be holy as He is holy, and we need to stop trying to achieve holiness through our own efforts to become holy.  If we rely on our own understanding of what it takes to be holy, we will never be holy but we will become Pharisees who follow the laws and rituals.  We will become arrogant with spiritual pride. If we can achieve holiness by strict adherence to the law, we would not need a savior. 

We believe God delights in our strict adherence to the law while we ignore giving God what He desires most – our hearts.   It is interesting how Paul talks about the law in his letter to the Romans.  Paul states if there is no law then sin is not imputed.  Meaning sin exists but we do not know it exists until the law defines our action as sin.  No wonder we are uncomfortable when Jesus comes along and tells us to turn the other cheek if someone strikes us.  That is not what my father taught me when I was growing up, he taught me how to fight and told me to strike back if I was struck.  My father was teaching me not to let people take advantage of me; Jesus is teaching us how God expects us to live.   

Jesus is shaking the very foundations of our faith because we have been deceived into thinking the law defines holiness as conforming to a standard of behavior. By our ability to adhere to the rules, laws and dictates of our faith.  Jesus is telling us a spiritual truth by telling us we were created for holiness, and we have already been equipped for holiness by the action of God.  Holiness is ours by a gift of God who promised us he would change our hearts by writing his law on our hearts (Jer.31:33).  God also has provided us with the gift of the Holy Spirit whose task it is to change our hearts, minds and desires. 

We only need to surrender our will to God’s will and allow the Holy Spirit to do what it does every time it appears in the scriptures – creates life, transforms darkness into light, enlightens and emboldens.  All creation came about as the Spirit, the wind of God swept over the earth. Pentecost transformed frightened, disillusioned disciples into bold witnesses and miracle workers. 

Can we be holy as God is holy, you bet we can because God wants to make it happen if only, we allow him to guide us to holiness.  The Spirit will redefine the law for us as we begin to follow the law of the Spirit.  The Spirit of God was there when the law was given to Moses.  That moment was the starting point of our journey to holiness.  Just as our parents, who while we were infants gave us “rules” to follow as we grew into maturity.  Now we are mature, and we no longer need to have the law guide us for we are aware of sin and how it separates us from God. What we need now is to allow the law of the Spirit to move us back into God’s graces and show us how sin abounds in us because we have denied the power of Jesus’s death and resurrection to free us from sin. 

God’s plan for our holiness is by the grace of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He took the guilt of our sins upon himself.  How are we responding to that act?  Why do we retain the guilt of past sins when Jesus invites us to give that guilt to him every time we sin, every time we look at the cross, every time we confess our failings.  Remember the words of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery, “is there no one here to condemn you.”  There is no one condemning us but ourselves.  We need to walk away as she did and become followers and disciples who proclaim God has done marvelous deeds for, he as freed us from the law of sin and death and moved us into his marvelous kingdom of light.

We can live our faith differently. Instead of trying to be obedient to the law we can take off the training wheels and invite God into our hearts and by yielding to and feeling the embrace of the Father.  We can daily encounter God in the scriptures, in our prayers, in our daily life and in the sacrament.  Our souls will rejoice in God our savior for he has done marvelous deeds.   

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