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Bulletin: February 19, 2023


Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


Our readings from Leviticus and from Matthew today explore an especially difficult challenge: how to respond to injury and humiliation. Leviticus teaches that, in order to be holy, God’s people must refrain from grudges or revenge. In Matthew, Jesus teaches that we must first avoid actions that continue an escalating cycle of retribution. Jesus advocated a creative non-violent resistance, a response that both refuses to accept being humiliated and keeps open the possibility of reconciliation. For his listeners, turning the other cheek or walking the second mile were ways to throw the oppressor off-balance. They expose the harm being done, and sustains one’s personal dignity. When Jesus follows with his next teaching, “love your enemies,” he points to what might be a long journey of forgiveness toward those who hurt us. At these times, we might remember that Jesus, in his suffering and death, followed a similar path.


TEMPLE OF GOD

When Paul writes “you are the temple of God,” note that he uses the plural form of “you.” He was speaking about the community at Corinth as a temple. For Paul, a temple is where God dwells. God abides, and is active within, the shared life of the community. Paul speaks at length about the divisions within the Corinthian community. These divisions were seen as a defilement of God’s temple.

We encounter divisions in our own Church today, sometimes accompanied by a troubling lack of humility and charity. Often the conflicts revolve around establishing markers of true discipleship, with some emphasizing personal faith and morality, and others emphasizing justice and the Church’s social teachings. Perhaps the Spirit, active in the temple of our shared life, points toward Jesus’ command “love your enemies.” Perhaps we best exhibit discipleship in the charity we extend, and our capacity for dialogue, with those who disagree with us or who are unkind to us.


THE SERMON

Today we conclude the series of Sunday Gospel passages from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew’s chapters 5–7. Having proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom, Jesus extensively described to his new community what life is like in this new realm, and the inner dispositions needed to enter into it. He exposed hidden places of the heart, especially those places that needed to be healed.

The Sermon is a huge challenge for us today. The Sermon pushes against our attempts to compromise what God summons us to be and to do. It challenges our deep desires to see ourselves as virtuous, and to resist God’s desire to transform us. It reminds us that we are both loved by God and in need of God’s help. As we anticipate the season of Lent, consider prayerfully reading the Sermon as a whole. We are invited to carefully explore our deeper motivations, to allow God to uncover and to heal our fears and our wounds.

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