7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Date: 
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Speaker: 
Fr. Kyle
Homily transcription: 

In seminary, one of my best friends was a guy from Baltimore and we disagreed about almost everything.  We actually are still really good friends and still have epic arguments about pretty much everything.  One of our most epic arguments was over the question, “Does God want us to be perfect?”  His argument was that God does not so much want us to be perfect as much as he simply wants to love us, even in our imperfections.  My argument was based on today’s gospel reading which ends with Jesus saying, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.  To really get an answer to this question we need to dive deeper into what Jesus is really saying in today’s gospel.

Today’s gospel is a continuation of last weeks where Jesus is calling us to live out the New Law.  A law not written on stone tablets like the Old Law, but a Law of love written in our hearts.  So let’s actually dive into the bible to see what Jesus is actually saying about the new law and perfection.  By the way, I was talking to some of our students about bringing my bible up with me for my homily and one said, “Woh Father, we’re Catholic”.  He was joking, of course, but a good critique that we don’t do this often enough.

Matthew 5:38.  You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  This is the old law of just retaliation.  But Jesus says, if anyone hits your right cheek, offer him the other as well.  If someone whishes to get your tunic, let him have your cloak.  If anyone requires you to go one mile, go two miles with him.  He caps it all off with “if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.”  This is the New Law of perfection.  Not just to avoid retaliation but to seek the good of those who hurt us.  To go the extra mile.

Matthew 5:43 gets even better.  “You have heard it said, you will love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  This is the old law.  But Jesus says, love your enemies.  Now not many of us have an enemy or archnemesis like it’s a Marvel movie or something.  So one of my priest friends retranslates this from “love your enemy” to “love the annoying”; “love those who do not deserve it.”  Jesus’ New Law of perfection is not just to be polite or put up with our enemies or those who annoy us.  He is telling us to love those who do not deserve it without counting the cost, even if they do no do anything for us.    

Here is the point.  The old law is easy.  It is just avoiding sin and bitterness.  But Jesus calls us to more.  He calls us to the New Law of love which is to lay down our lives and go the extra mile.  This is a radical invitation to perfection.  As Pope Francis says, “Jesus did not come to teach us good manners.  To do that he would not have had to come down from heaven and die on the cross.”  He came to show us the radical love that we are capable of. 

Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect?  The question that my friend in seminary and I would argue about was really the wrong question.    This perfection is not attained through our own work; that is the old law way of thinking.  Rather perfection is a product; it is the fruit that comes forth from living a life of radical love.  What God wants more than anything, even in our imperfection, is for us to experience His radical love and to live out radical love for other even in their imperfections and annoyances.  That is what it means to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.  It is to love as our Heavenly Father has loved us.  This is what it means to be a saint.  I will leave you with one last thought from Pope Francis, this kind of love, “To be a saint is not luxury.  It is necessary for the salvation of the world.  This is what the Lord is asking of us.”