Feb 19, 2017
7th Sun Ordinary Time
Sun 10 am & 4:30 pm
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48
A few Sundays ago an elderly woman walked into church and a friendly hospitality minister greeted her and offered to help her to her seat. He politely asked her, “Where would you like to sit?” She answered, “The front row please.” The man replied, “You really don’t want to sit there…the deacon preaching today is really boring.” The woman said, “Do you happen to know who I am?” The man answered, “No.” She said very strongly, “I am the deacon’s mother!” To which the man asked, “Do you know who I am?” “No”, the woman said. “Good,” he answered and quickly walked away.
On this 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time, in this Season of growth, we are continued to be taught and reminded of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Not one that just goes through the motions or who is Catholic in name only but a true follower and imitator of Christ. And the message for us in the readings today is holiness: what it is and how it calls us to live our lives.
The first reading is from the Book of Leviticus, the 3rd book of the bible. This book contains the rules, regulations and customs given by God through Moses to the people of Israel, to the chosen people of God. The scripture said, “The Lord said to Moses, Speak to the whole Israelite community.” So the message was meant for everyone in the community. And the core of God’s message to His people, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”…Through our Baptism we are now the chosen people of God. And His message to us is the same, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” This message is not just for certain people in the Church. Before Vatican II in the early 1960’s that was the thought: only the priests and religious were called to holiness. But during Vatican II the Spirit of God spoke to the Church that not only the clergy were called to holiness but all members of the Body of Christ are to live holy lives (every man, woman, teenager and child). Whatever situation or walk of life we are in: single, married, young or older, rich or poor, healthy or sick, clergy or not we are all called to holiness.
So if we are all called to be holy we must know what it is. Holiness is to be filled with the Holy One, the Spirit of Jesus. Only He can make us holy. St. Paul said in our 2nd reading, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” In other words, “Hello! Don’t you realize that through your Baptism you were filled with the Holy One?” We must know this, that each and every one of us who have been baptized have God Himself dwelling inside of us. Just like the tabernacle is the house of God housing the Eucharist we too are the house of God through Baptism and through the receiving of God Himself in the Eucharist. We must fully realize that we are a walking, talking tabernacle with God dwelling inside of us, if we allow Him to. He gives us His grace but we must cooperate with His grace. In other words, He will remain in us if we are open to Him and if we communicate with Him daily. We are called to be holy but only He can make us holy…Also, we must remember as St. Paul tells us that our bodies are “temples of the Holy Spirit”. Which means we must be careful and mindful of taking care of our bodies, what we take into our bodies, that nothing enters that will harm them (drugs, excessive alcohol, unhealthy food, etc.) We must be careful of the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the type of things on social media, etc.). We must be careful how we dress, not only at church but everywhere we go. Remember our bodies are supposed to be temples of God.
Holiness also means “set apart”. It means set apart for a special purpose. The vessels used at mass, the gold ciboria and cups are holy because they are set apart for a special purpose. As the chosen people of God through Christ we are holy, set apart for a special purpose which is to take part in the mission of Jesus and His Church. Set apart to be different than the world, to lead the world to Christ.
So what does holiness look like? Is it someone who walks around all day with their head bowed and their hands folded? Not necessarily. But holiness can sometimes be seen on a person. When my wife and I were in our mid-twenties living in LA I noticed these 3 guys about my age at work. And there was something different about them. They seemed to be glowing. They were so filled with Jesus that you could see it all over them. They had a joy and a confidence that I had never seen before. And they were a big influence on me and my conversion. I imagine that’s why the saints are pictured with halos over their heads, because you can see it all over them.
But the way holiness is seen through most of us is living what we heard in Leviticus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love in action towards our neighbor is holiness revealed. Love in action is proof of our holiness that we are filled with the Holy One and set apart for a special purpose. But Jesus, in the Gospel, takes it even further. He says, “You have heard it 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.” This was a radical statement back then and is a radical statement today. Love your enemies?!! Really?!! This is probably the most difficult teaching of Christ and the hardest to follow. It’s easy to love your own kind, the ones on your side or the ones who agree with you. But what about the ones who are different, the ones who are against us or who persecute us? That’s not so easy is it?!! But that’s what we are called to. That’s what holiness is…why? Because if we are united to the Holy One, we are to live as Him in love of all people, friend and enemy as Jesus does. As He tells us, “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” The world says, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to the one who is evil.” That is radical, that is different. We want revenge don’t we, we want to strike back. But with God’s grace in us we do not…I heard a teaching many years ago when I first started my walk with Christ about this. They said if there is someone in your life that is an enemy, someone who has come against you or your family and you really can’t stand them or even want to strike back at them: instead pray for them. Lift them up in prayer every day. Pray that they are blessed and that they find God. It will be very difficult at first…but it will get easier. And you will be set free. You will have room for the Holy One in your heart. You will remain holy. You will be holy.
To assist us to live holiness that we are called to we are given the Church which Jesus has sanctified. In the Church we find all the means necessary to live a life of holiness. We have God’s Word, we have the Eucharist and we have Reconciliation. In the Church we have the Pope, bishops and priests to lead us and guide us on our walk. We have the Blessed Mother and the Saints who we look to for an example of holiness and who we ask to pray for us. And in the Church we have each other, to help us on our walk to strive for holiness. To lift each other up when we are down or when we are straying away. We have each other to walk side by side on this road that we are called to walk…We have all the means necessary to live holiness in the Church.
Jesus says in the last verse of today’s Gospel, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God knows we will never be perfect but we are to strive for perfection by living in holiness, cooperating with the grace He offers us… Every man, woman, teenager and child is called to be holy. Filled with the Holy One, set apart for a special purpose, a true disciple of Jesus Christ, we are called to be saints of God, so that He is seen all over us, for His glory!