February 23: 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Readings: 1. Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18; Psalm: 103; 2. 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48.
A number of ideas associated with God and neighbour come together in these readings. Of key importance, however, are God’s holiness and the love we are expected to extend to everyone around us.
Leviticus speaks very plainly about our relationship with God and the way we must regard people of our acquaintance. Together these two aspects of our lives present us with a challenge of sorts. For it is in the call to imitate God that we find the measure for judging our relationships with others. Getting to know that and his holiness require us to live as God’s sons and daughters. And “love” is the word that characterises people who truly have care and concern for one another, especially in particular circumstances.
Paul’s focus in 1 Corinthians taps into a similar train of thought. Seeing ourselves as God’s holy temple, where the Holy Spirit dwells, means that we are to conduct our lives very much aware of the fact. Paul’s point is thus a very simple one. For if we are to acknowledge our true identity in God and Christ, we have to act accordingly.
In today’s text from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ teaching echoes this necessary attitude to our faith life. And, in some respects, his words here are a more radical call to imitate God. Love of both neighbour and enemy spells out what God desires of us; that we be his committed agents, proclaiming the Good News far and wide, without setting hard and fast boundaries. This participation in bringing about God’s Kingdom thus calls for a deeply-felt understanding of what may be necessary.
These texts lay down a challenge. And as children of God, they cause us to reflect on holiness and dedication to the mission of living out the Good News.