Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

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Michael F. Di Gregorio, O.S.A.
Prior Provincial
Province of St. Thomas of Villanova

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

Every Sunday when we gather together as Church, we profess our faith in God in the centuries-old formula which we call the Nicene Creed. In fact, every time we pray, no matter where we may be, we make a similar profession of faith in God. Prayer presupposes this faith. How often, however, do you and I ever reflect on the fact of God’s faith in us!

Jesus is speaking precisely about God’s faith or trust in us when he addresses his disciples with the challenging message of today’s Gospel: turn the other cheek, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

When so many voices today, speaking both from within us and from all around us, keep reminding us of our limitations, our woundedness, our dysfunctional family origins, all of which has its place, it is refreshing and encouraging to hear the voice of Jesus tell us that we are capable of greatness. It is a promising thought to hear the Master, the Messiah, invite us to become more than what we discover ourselves to be at this or any moment. It is life-giving to realize that in God’s mind we are always, always, capable of change, we are able to grow, no matter how old we think we are, how set in our ways, how comfortable and content. God says: you can!

Experts tell us all the time today that we have to accept ourselves as we are. And, indeed, we do. We must know ourselves and accept ourselves. But that is the starting point. We do not have to settle for this condition of the self. That is, we do not have to stay forever and always at the point of self-discovery. We can never be content to say with an attitude of resignation or fatalism “that’s the way I am,” and implicitly or explicitly, “that’s the way I’m always going to be.”

Jesus spoke to his disciples and said: this is the way you are – you exact an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You don’t have to be that way: turn the other cheek. You love your countrymen and hate your enemies, because that is what you were taught. But I want you to know that you are capable of loving your enemies, of praying for your persecutors. You love those who love you. What’s the big deal? Rather, strive to be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.

Sometimes we imagine that we are the way we are, or we do the things we do, or we think the way we think because it’s in our DNA to be or do or think so. Sometimes, because it’s what we’ve been told by parents, teachers, newspapers or TV talk show hosts, or the people we know. “This is the way you are. This is the way life is. This is the way it goes. Face it. Accept it. Learn to live with it!” Jesus’ message is far more hope-filled, far more life-giving! So also, is Saint Augustine’s advice, “If you say: It is enough, you are lost. Keep on walking, moving forward, trying for the goal. Don’t stop on the way, or go back, or deviate from it.”