by Fr. Ed Liptak, SDB
Brothers and Sisters in Faith, the readings on this 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time ‘A’ offer at first glance challenges all but impossible to meet. Our gentle and good Jesus, as Matthew’s Gospel presents him, has been advising on the Christian way of life, and now he makes demands of us seemingly far beyond what any ordinary human being can answer to.
First, note that Jesus asks these things after he has worked great signs for the people. He has pleaded for faith in him. He expects us to believe and accept what he teaches. Second, in her wisdom, the Church knows that this 7th Sunday precedes Ash Wednesday and the season of repentance and offerings to God in atonement for our sins and the sins of all the world. Third, Jesus never asked anything of others that he was not willing to offer himself. His Passion and Cross demonstrates that exceedingly well.
So, he says, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” “If one strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other as well.” Or to paraphrase, ‘If you are being sued, give willingly even more than you are sued for.’ “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles.” “Give…and do not turn your back on the one who wants to borrow.” “Love your enemies…pray for those who persecute you.”
Each of these things and others which he suggests, Jesus willingly did. He called on us as children of God to imitate his Father who showers rain, sunlight, (and his gifts) upon the good and the bad. From his Cross He begged forgiveness on those who were cruelly torturing him. To us at the Sermon on the Mount he said, “If you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?” That is, recommence in heaven. ‘Tax collectors also love their own.’
Jesus did not say that all this must be the lot of every Christian all during one’s life, but he did say, “Should any of this ever befall you in the course of life, as I accepted God’s will for me, so join your suffering to mine. Accept it as God’s will for you, and we will meet joyfully in heaven.” You and I will never be perfect in thus life, and that is quite for sure. But when Jesus said, “Be prefect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” that surely will be the fullness of our joy when we are joined with the brilliant light, love, life, and perfection of God in Eternal Life. Do we trust in Him?