Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time • Year A

Liam T. O’Doherty, O.S.A.
Church of St. Augustine
Troy, New York

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

Baptism is something that most of us don’t think about all that often.

As Catholic Christians, it’s a fundamental thing that we all have in common. So much of our identity as Catholic Christians springs from the extraordinary things that happened to us the day we were baptized. I was less than three weeks old on the day of my baptism, so I have no recollection of that day, but I thank God for the work that he started in me on that pivotal day in my life.

All three of today’s readings touch upon our baptismal call to holiness.
In today’s reading from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we heard these words:

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

That Spirit of God who dwells in us is, of course, the Holy Spirit.
The works of the Holy Spirit are many, but two of the most important are these:

1. To reveal Jesus Christ to you – and the Spirit will continue to do that throughout your whole life if you allow Him to.

2. To make you holy. But what does that mean? I’ll get to that in a minute. As far back as the time of Moses, God was calling us to be holy:

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.”

The word for “Holy” in Hebrew is “Kadosh.” It comes from a root meaning “to be set apart,” to be “separate.”

God is holy.

God is separate from us in that we are his creatures, and He is our Creator. No one created God.

God existed from all eternity.

God is entirely different, and in that way, separate from us.

And yet God made us because he first loved us.

God loved us into being. God continues to care for us.

And despite being so different and separate from us,

God is intimately involved in our lives.

He sends His Spirit to live in our hearts.

And the Spirit of God and the Love of God can change us if we let Him.

This is another meaning of the word “Holy”:

To be changed – to be transformed by the Love and the Power of God so that we somehow resemble him in how we live our lives.

Each of us, you and I, are called to be Holy from the time of our baptism. And it’s a lifelong process of transformation.

To be Holy is to be intimately involved in and immersed in the environment in which we live, yet to be separated from it on some level.

Listen to today’s Gospel from Matthew. We have been hearing parts of the Sermon on the Mount for the past few weekends. We’re in the section now where Jesus talks about how we, as His disciples, should act and live differently from the society around us:

“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.”

In choosing to live this way, we reflect the Love of God and the Holiness of God to those around us.

Remember what we heard in the first reading from Leviticus: “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.”

Jesus echoes those words at the end of the Gospel, where he says: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Whenever I hear this, I ask myself:
How can I be perfect?

Especially in comparison with our Father in Heaven?

But then I’m always consoled by how St. Luke gives us the words of Jesus in the same context: “Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.”

Merciful enough to give to the one who asks of us and not turn our backs on one who wants to borrow.
Merciful enough to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Brothers and Sisters,

Through your baptism, God is calling you to be Holy. But don’t be alarmed or overwhelmed by this. Nothing is impossible with God. St. Augustine tells us that falling in love with Jesus and following Him is the greatest adventure.

Since the day of our baptisms, every one of us has been on a journey that includes our vocation to grow daily in holiness. This journey will culminate in our arrival at the Heavenly Banquet in the Kingdom.

When we receive Jesus today in Holy Communion, let us ask Him to teach us and help us grow in holiness.