Bulletin: February 23, 2020

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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings reflect on our communal identity as disciples. Before we begin Lent together in a few days, we take time to appreciate what God has done by giving us our family of faith. In Leviticus, God tells Moses to “speak to the whole Israelite community” and give them instructions for living in love. Moses passes along the message—to each and every believer—that God’s people must strive together for holiness. Saint Paul echoes this message, insisting that we are indeed God’s holy children. As temples of the Spirit, we belong to Christ and to one another. This mutual belonging is a blessing and a challenge. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus sets a high bar for Christian community: his followers must love not only those who are easy to love, but also the people who upset us. Together, let us ask God to give us this kind of love.

I AM THE LORD

Today’s first reading concludes in classic Levitical style: “I am the Lord.” Over and over again, the book of Leviticus punctuates its paragraphs with that simple statement: “I am the Lord.” Relentlessly repeating that phrase, the word of God reminds us that God is the Lord—and we are not. We did not construct the world; we did not create ourselves. Remembering our status as mere creatures comes as a shock to us at times, especially when we flex and pose as masters of our own tiny universes. On the other hand, knowing we are “merely” God’s beloved children can free us. When we accept that God is the source and summit of all wisdom, we approach life with a growing stillness, an openness to God’s powerful action in the world.

HOLY AND PERFECT

Our openness to God’s powerful action helps us understand Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel, when he demands that we become “perfect.” Most of us shudder at the thought of having to be perfect. The idea of achieving perfection seems impossible, frankly. But, just before despair sets in, we recall that we are merely creatures. If God wants us to be “holy” and “perfect,” as today’s readings emphasize, then God will provide all we need to chip away at our imperfections. If we nurse a hateful grudge against someone and cannot imagine being free of the resentment, God can help. If we harm our own bodies through bad habits, the holy Spirit can strengthen our resolve and transform our daily behavior. If we long for advantage over others, if we are disgusted by the thought of loving “unworthy” people, if we overwhelmingly prefer comfort and stability over the wildness of lavish generosity—Jesus Christ, King of glory, can convert our timid hearts. These transformations take time, patience, and prayer. Sitting quietly to reflect over today’s readings is an excellent kind of prayer, and an inspiring way to begin.

Today’s Readings: Lv 19:1–2, 17–18; Ps 103:1–2, 3–4, 8, 10, 12–13; 1 Cor 3:16–23; Mt 5:38–48

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