The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 19, 2023
Lectionary Readings: Lev. 19:1-2. 17-18; Ps.103:1-4. 8. 10. 12-13; 1 Cor. 3:16-23; Matt. 5:38-48
Theme: Daily prescriptions in continuous reference to holiness
The readings for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, echo the Decalogue from the Torah and the duties incumbent on the people of G-d in the context of holiness as outlined in the reading from the Book of Leviticus, which are a collection of prescriptions regarding daily life.
The same is echoed by Jesus in the gospel reading which together with Deut. 6:5 was used by Jesus to summarize the Mosaic Law. However, the principle of revenge, (lex talionis) is radically restricted by Jesus. The examples in today’s gospel reading are clearly rhetorical of themselves, but the teaching on non-violence is clear and binding in itself. The disciples of Jesus are to be convinced that forgiveness is the only way of breaking up the devilish cycle of offence-violence so prevalent in today’s world.
The Mosaic Law required love of the neighbor. This was often extended to include hatred of the outsider and especially in religious circles, hatred of the non-righteous. Hence, what these gospel verses say is topical. The modern trends have exaggerated ethnic divisions and dissensions. Although tradition has always insisted on the good for one’s own clan first, many ethnic groups insisted on respect for the stranger. Holiness is the highest level of human behaviour, human beings at their most G-d-like, and when a morally free human being has complete dominion over one’s own energies and inclinations and the temptations associated with them, and places them at the service of G-d’s will.
For Buber, holiness is found not in rising above the level of one’s neighbors but rather in relationships, in human beings recognizing the latent divinity in each other. G-d can make things holy as in the case of Shabbat (Gen 2:3). As human beings, we can be G-d-like by exercising our power to sanctify moments and objects in our lives.
Time can be sanctified when it is used to draw closer to G-d. Objects can become holy when they help people rise toward G-d. The Torah is holy not only because it comes from G-d but because it leads to G-d. In this context, rites of expiation and reconciliation seem to have fallen into disuse. It is something worth considering. Jesus reinforces the unique demands and cost of discipleship and its final goal: perfection like that of the Heavenly Father.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. The Biblical understanding of holy is to be different, to be set apart from the ordinary. Reflect upon or discuss, what according to you is holiness in today’s pluralistic context. 2. Make a list of those who have hurt us or abused us – those who might be classed as ‘enemies.’ Picture them before us one by one. Imagine them in front of us; each one speaking with us, expressing the pain and damage they have caused us. Take one person at a time and allow the forgiving love of Jesus to wash over them, blessing them while freeing ourselves simultaneously of accumulated hurts and their effects. Talk to a trusted person how you felt about all this.
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965); The African Bible (Pauline Publications Africa, Nairobi: 1999); God’s Word for God’s World (2015).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Roy da Silva, India, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2002 – 2006, 2015