Homily February 23, 2014 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on February 19, 2014

eyeFor those of us who are older, we can think back to times when communication and entertainment at home consisted of a radio and possibly a record player. Later there was television with small fuzzy black and white pictures which presented a picture to the whole world such as it was. A decade or so later came color television followed by all the progressions up to the present age of instantaneous news and contact throughout the whole world.

Today’s gospel gives us a similar look at the past and an understanding of the progress we should be making in our journey of loving God and neighbor. Jesus starts by quoting the biblical “ an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. This phrase has so often been quoted to justify so many things over the ages for the need for punishment, revenge to the death penalty. It is easy to forget this prescription was written for a small nation or federation of twelve tribes comprising the Jewish nation. The times were very harsh and the demands made on people were severe and at times odious. This phrase was never meant to prescribe what was to be done, but rather meant to rein in extreme actions by limiting the harshness and extremeness that revenge could take. Like all other things, God prepared the way but humanity was a progression, a work in progress, as they say today. The harshness and violence of ancient times has progressed somewhat today, and that progression is what the sermon on the mount is about.

Loving God and neighbor(which Jesus tells us includes all of humanity) is what it is about. Jesus was here moving from the black and white era of love and morality to the next era which is growing and calling on us today. The measure of our lives is much more complicated than a set of yes or no rules, black and white pictures to behold. We must measure ourselves today on how our love affects first oneself and secondly the other person and those other effected. Facing evil, turning the other cheek, tolerating injustice, or working to change bad or evil things are hard and often gut wrenching things to do. Removing selfishness from our actions is not always easy. Changing people isn’t either. God looks over all of us hoping the best for the bad as well as the good. His patience is perfect, in contrast to our imperfection. His understanding far surpasses ours. Yet Jesus calls us to perfection.

“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” part of the Sermon has so often been used to justify the opposite of the very love it calls for. Far from calling for punishment it calls for love and forgiveness. If someone is evil or disruptive we are charged to love and handle it in a loving way. But the question arises whether we should employ those harshest limits that Christ referred to whenlove neighbor he said to love your enemies and those who hate you. Would a person today buy a black and white TV? Well then I ask, are the moral prescriptions of over 3000 years ago with all the antagonisms of place and time and mindsets of culture really what we want to espouse today? Today, they talk of executing people in a way that it doesn’t look brutal. Yet ripping a soul from a body is brutal however you do it. In many ways, humanity has progressed, but I think today as we pause and pray, Christ’s law of love gives us much to think and pray about.