19 February 20177 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
7 Ordinary Time
Seventh Sunday of the Year - A Cycle - Matthew 5:38-48

A murderer was gassed. The warden left the death chamber and walked through the jail. A convict shouted, "Who's the murderer now?"

An ABC News Poll says that almost 80% of Americans support capital punishment. 42% of that number say that they seek revenge for deeds done by the criminals. Let us run those numbers by Jesus in this Gospel. Let's see what the computer printout reads. The most ancient law we know of teaches a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. Its author is Hammurabi. He lived 4300 years ago. (William Barclay)

Hammurabi's law of tit for tat was not as gruesome as it sounds. His object was to limit revenge.

Before Hammurabi, if you wronged one tribe member, his buddies would murder your entire clan. We talk about Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.

Hammurabi says, "No way." The only one to be punished is the perpetrator. His punishment is to be no heavier than the wrong he committed. Nor could the victim play the jury. A judge had to decide. It was understood he was not to become a hanging judge. Hammurabi sounds like a Christian waiting to happen, doesn't he? Sorry if you said yes, for Jesus deep-sixed the law of tit for tat. According to Him, if you are serious about being Christian, revenge is a no-no across the board. Besides, if you keep knocking out teeth and blinding eyes, you will have a toothless and blind world.

People advise, "Don't get angry. Get even." Uglies shout, "Get angry and get even." The Founder of our Firm says, "To return good for good is human. To return good for evil is divine." He wants us to be divine. He reminds us anger is but one letter short of DANGER. He tells us the best way to get even is to forgive as we have been forgiven. He wants us "always to keep a cool head and a warm heart." An old woman cursed aloud as she passed the car slowing her down. The young man blew her a kiss. He follows Jesus.

Jesus practiced what He preached. He both forgave people who crucified Him and made excuses for them. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Christ is not finished. He says His people must think not of their rights but of their duties as His followers. They must be concerned not with benefits but responsibilities.

Is it any wonder that attorneys of the time wanted the Christ off the scene? He put them out of business. Have you ever wondered why Jesus had no defense attorney before Governor Pilate? I wager He could not find one to take His case. While attorneys might not support our Leader, psychiatrists would. We do have a psychic need to forgive and somehow love our enemies. Love possesses healing balm. Should we stay angry, we will become sick. Thus we will wind up in a psychiatrist's office as a paying customer.

The word love appears in Scripture 500 times. Be careful with your tongue. It is in a wet place and can easily slip. Remember the man who killed his best friend: "We argued and I killed him when we ran out of words." (Unknown) Don't tremble at that word love. It is not the love you bear your family. That is love from the heart. I speak of love that emerges from the will. Such love reminds us the glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness. (William Blake) Such love is only possible with God's help. Here help is a synonym for grace. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it. (Martin Luther King, Jr)

Jesus stands before us with Amy Vanderbilt's tome on good manners and says, "Forgiveness is but the first step of the never ending journey for my followers." The Christian message is upbeat. Looking at us, Christ is an optimist. He says we can break through the envelope, run through pain, and leave behind the ordinary human condition. We are told He sees us not as we are but as we can be. In a word, saints.

Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition for our existence, says St Basil.

If you forgive and forget but sometimes fail, do not despair. Jesus tells you, "I call you to serve, not to solve."

Anybody wondering how the Master feels on the question of capital punishment? Remember Christ is the world's most celebrated victim of capital punishment.

Those who defeat their anger overcome a formidable foe. Two cannot quarrel when one will not. (Unknown)

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
7 Ordinary Time
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: The Law of Joy

Those of you who are circus devotees probably heard the bad news: Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey has announced that they as well as all circuses throughout the country have a serious shortage of clowns. It seems that people just aren't interested in the intense training. Being a part of 20 clowns in a VW Beatle has also lost its appeal. But do not fear, the circuses have opened up a recruiting office in Washington, DC. There are plenty of people there who do not even have to go to clown school.

Four years ago this week, Pope Emeritus Benedict shocked the world by announcing that he would retire from the Chair of St. Peter. This set into motion events that led to a change in the tone of the Catholic Church. As you know, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope, taking the name Francis and bringing the simplicity of St. Francis to the Church's highest office. This new tone that Pope Francis brought to the Church is one of joy. He has urged bishops, priests and deacons to step away from hammering at the same two moral issues, abortion and gay marriage, that have become the focus of so many homilies, particularly in America. His first major writing to the Church was the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. He urged those preaching to use their homilies to bring the joy of the Lord to the world.

For many this has not been the easiest of tasks. Many homilists still feel a necessity to continue being negative. Many in the pews are quite happy to hear priests and deacons sticking it to those who promote abortion or gay marriage and will even applaud them as though it takes courage to preach to the choir. It will take time, years really, before the tone of joy replaces the tone of confrontation. But it will happen. In time.

It has to happen. We need to move away from the Church of No to the Church of Joy. There is so much more to the Gospel then confronting two issues.

Consider today's readings. All three readings tell us that the world does not have to be a place of hatred with its accompanying anger and violence. History does not have to result from a series of wars. The workplace does not have to be a place of nastiness, of unbridled ambition, of people destroying others for their own gain. The school does not have to be a place where might makes right and mean Teens dominate. Nor does the neighborhood have to be a place where rumors destroy lives.

The readings are telling us that the world does not have to be this way. A Savior has come who has presented a new way of living, a new law, a Law of Joy. This is a law that says if we check our desire for vengeance, we can live in peace with ourselves and our God. If we refuse to be dominated by hatred, we can remain united to the One who is Love Become Flesh. If there is only one person in the workplace who lives by this New Law, the workplace will experience the presence of the Lord in that person. With the Grace of the Holy Spirit working through this person, the workplace can become a place of joy. Similarly, if there is only one person at the cafeteria table who refuses to join the attack on someone at school, those plotting to hurt others will be forced to reconsider their plans. Perhaps, eventually, they will realize that the mean have no joy, but the meek, those who follow today's gospel, live in happiness.

The Gospel is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Throughout the sermon, Jesus calls on us to look inside ourselves. If we allow hateful thoughts to overtake us, we cannot be people of peace. If we nurture memories of the times that we were hurt and convince ourselves that we have a right to vengeance, our lives will be in continual turmoil. The Lord tells us to adopt a new way of thinking, a new way of acting, a way that is radically opposed to the way of the world. He tells us to turn the other cheek. That's hard. He tells us to love our enemies. Thatâ??s even harder. He tells us to be pleasant with those who attack us. He tells us to live in peace with all, even those who hate us. Others may or may not change their ways, but we cannot allow their actions to change us. We cannot allow others to steal the joy we have in being united to Jesus Christ. We need to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. That word perfect here in Matthew is better translated wholesome or sincere. If we do our best to be wholesome on the inside, our lives will be full of the Joy of the Lord.

We pray about this joy at every Mass, particularly during the Eucharistic prayer. Perhaps you might want to listen for this today. You may not hear the word joy, but you will hear us thanking God for the gift of our Savior, for accepting his Sacrifice for us, for giving us a share in his life.

I once spent a week on Barbados, one of the Caribbean Islands. The Island is very Christian. Every day when I saw the ladies who cleaned the rooms I would greet them and then say, "And how are you today"  I did this purposely because I loved hearing their answer. Each lady would say the same thing: "I am blessed"  And so are we all.

All the pettiness that we suffer from others. All the hatred that others cast on us. All the scheming that others might attempt. None of this matters. What matters is the Love of God and the joy we have in Jesus Christ, our Lord. The New Law of the Kingdom of God, calls us to forgive, to turn from anger, to be kind. And live in peace. The New Law of the Kingdom of God is the Law of Joy.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
7 Ordinary Time
Hidden Wisdom Week 4 - Be Perfect (February 19, 2017)

Message: Today consider what it would mean to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

"So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." What does this mean? That you and I will have such goodness that people will look at us in amazement and say, how did he become so good? (Smile) Don't hold your breath. Becoming perfect is not about how people look at us but how we look at others.

How do people typically look at each other? Well, you already know: we divide into factions and we look at the other side as if they were idiots. I've used the word, haven't you? This is called polarization. It means not only that we don't see the other person's point of view but that we don't want to. Polarization didn't start with the last election. If you know some history you know it's the ordinary way humans treat each other - on the the level of society and even in our closest relationships. It takes a great effort - and a special grace - to see things from the other person's perspective.

Yet that's what Jesus asks us to do. Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. He makes the sun rise on the bad and the good and causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. People in Palestine considered rain a blessing. God blesses the just and the unjust. To be perfect means to desire a blessing not only for the person who treats one well but the person who treats one badly.

One day Mother Teresa went to a local bakery to ask for bread for orphan children. The baker, outraged at people begging bread from him, spat in her face and refused. Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said to the baker, "Okay, that was for me. Now what about the bread for the orphans?" Silence followed and the baker gave her the bread.

Here we see the wisdom St. Paul describes - the hidden wisdom we are aiming at in this series. It's not a feel good wisdom. It's the cross.

We have one more week. Next Sunday Jesus will give the key to overcoming anxiety and worry. I need it myself. I admit I am big worrier. St. Paul next week will round out hidden wisdom by talking about how to avoid premature judgment. Today consider what it would mean to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect: He makes the sun rise on the bad and the good and causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
7 Ordinary Time

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic
Matthew 5: 38-48

Gospel Summary
This Sunday's gospel reading is taken from the section in Matthew's Gospel that came to be called the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7). Matthew summarizes the teaching of Jesus on a variety of life issues such as anger, adultery, retaliation, almsgiving, prayer, money, judging others, and discipleship. Jesus teaches us how to respond to those who do us evil. He tells us to love them, and to pray for those who persecute us. The radical teaching of Jesus and its actualization in his own life creates a crisis of decision. Each person who hears this gospel must decide whether or not to trust Jesus when he says that an apparently foolish act of love is stronger than any act of evil. If we live in the wisdom of Jesus, we can be certain that we are children of the heavenly Father because love is the nature of divine life. If we only love those who love us in a kind of business deal, that is not to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. There must be a family likeness.

Life Implications
When we hear the cost of Christian discipleship, our spontaneous reaction probably sounds something like this: Lord, you're going too far. Asking us to live like that would make people think of us as fools. That kind of reaction means that we have heard Jesus correctly. We tend to ignore the foolishness of Christ's teaching about discipleship. Saint Paul does not: he acknowledges the foolishness of the gospel he preaches, almost as an essential characteristic of its authenticity. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul writes: The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1: 18, 22-24).

Why does Paul say that Christ crucified is an obstacle to believers and foolishness to reasonable people? The answer touches upon the essential revelation of the gospel: God, the heavenly Father, is love. Jesus, his only Son, perfect image of the Father, can only be love, even to giving up his life on a cross. This human, free act of giving up his life even for those killing him appears foolish because it is so contrary to our deepest human instinct to preserve our own life by whatever means more violence, retaliation, possessions, power, money than those who are in hostile competition with us to stay alive. A third-century graffito scratched on a stone wall of a house in Rome ridicules Christians by depicting a figure on a cross with the head of a jackass!

By our own fragile freedom and strength we cannot liberate ourselves from the prison of self-love and the fear of death. It is only through accepting the gift of sharing in the freedom and strength of the Risen Christ that we can live as children of God in love. The Letter to the Hebrews (2:15) neatly summarizes this good news: and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Liberated from the fear of death, our deepest instinct to live is fulfilled by receiving the gift of sharing in the eternal life of God.

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount gives us random examples of what it would mean to love one another simply because we are begotten of God, and God is love. His purpose is to reveal the secret power of love, thus freeing each of us to imagine our own unique ways of love in the particular circumstances of our own life. It is possible to go beyond the reasonable, good boundaries of quid-pro-quo business relations to experience the miracle of receiving a gift and being a gift for others. This is the grace of the Eucharist that we pray for today: to be like God, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect in love. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Seventh Sunday Ordinary Time A, Modern
Matthew 5: 38 - 48

Sometimes we allow the unworthiness that results from of our sinfulness to overshadow the great love and mercy God has for us. We place low expectations on ourselves because, after all, we are unworthy and our sins prevent us from doing great things. This is contrary to what the Bible and Jesus tells us about our identity. The Old Testament begins by telling us that we are created in the image and likeness of God. No other creature can claim that distinction. Of all that God created we, alone, are his image and likeness. In the Reading from Leviticus God tells Moses and the people of Israel to be Holy. In the First letter of Paul to the Corinthians he tells us that we are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. These three passages should lift us from feeling that we can do little or nothing with our faith because of our sin, to realize that Jesus, the Word made Flesh, says the word that heals us from sin and makes us worthy to be what God calls us to be. God has not given up on us. He sent Christ to redeem, and the Spirit to sanctify us.

God desires us to have a unique and close relationship with him, and he gives us the gifts we need to draw close to him. As in any true love relationship, it is a commitment that opens us up to receive the blessings and gifts God has for us, as well as the desire to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and spirit, even to the point of great sacrifice. In our relationship with God the blessings, gifts, and ultimate reward, are far greater than any sacrifice we make for him. The gospel today tells us some of what we are called to sacrifice.

Because we are God's dwelling place we are expected to live holy lives, and in the Gospel Jesus tells us how to do that. His message is bold and is contrary to the way most people of his time though. It is a call to no longer look at justice as, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." It is a call to passivity in conflicts, generous response to those who are in need, and ultimately to love our enemies. This went against most of what they had been taught. For those who truly believed in Christ, they sacrificed their former way of thinking and acting out of love for Jesus. Look at all that the early apostles and disciples suffered, and they did so while praying for their persecutors. This is a great sacrifice for us, for who does not look for some sense of revenge toward an "enemy."? Even if it is not deliberate action on our part, don't we tend to smile when some little misfortune strikes an "enemy"? This is also a challenge for us at a time when society seems to confuse justice with revenge, and views mercy as weak and irresponsible. God is a just judge whose judgments are not made out of revenge, but out of justice and love. Revenge leaves no room for reconciliation, while justice seeks reconciliation in the midst of the consequences of our sins. Mercy is not a weakness it is a strength. The ability to look beyond the hurts we might have experienced, and to be able to forgive and love. This is difficulty, but possible because God has great expectations for us to do great things, because of who we are in his eyes.

Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
7 Ordinary Time
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

We continue to work our way through the Sermon on the Mount this Sunday with some apparent teaching on non-violence. Jesus says quite categorically, 'Offer the wicked man no resistance.' And then later on he adds, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is looks like some very strong teaching indeed and certainly runs completely opposite to the way the world thinks about things.

We find it difficult to comprehend what Jesus intends by this. Maybe if we were to think of ourselves being attacked we might be able to summon up the moral courage not to retaliate. But what about those close to us. Are we to stand defenceless before our enemies? Are we to stand aside when our children are attacked? Are we to fail to protect our spouses against brutal assault?

These are important questions. We might not think we are being called to answer them right now because we live in a relatively peaceful society. But we need to be prepared for the answer we might give if things became difficult. Our grandparents and great-grandparents had to have an answer to these questions during the time of the last world war. If the whole nation had taken Jesus teaching literally then the consequence would be that even today we would find ourselves under the jackboot of a foreign oppressor.

These are very difficult questions. But thank God that we live in a country which even with its back against the wall found space for the conscientious objector.

Maybe there is another way of looking at all this. If we examine the text carefully we find that Jesus is very specific; he says, 'If anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well.â?? What I believe we have to understand is that this is referring to an insult and not a full-frontal physical attack.

What I think Jesus is talking about is the situation where a socially superior person slaps you on the right check with the back of their hand. This is the sort of insult that many Jews would have received from their Roman oppressors.

We have to understand that in the ancient world the left hand was used only for unclean tasks. If you think about it, to hit a person on the right cheek with the right hand can only be done with the back of the hand. This is what makes it an insult. It is the sort of thing a master might do to a slave.

Jesus says turn the other cheek and if you do this then the oppressor cannot then hit the right cheek again since now the left cheek gets in the way. You would almost have to do this yourself to see what is being done here. Take it from me, it is virtually impossible to strike either cheek with the right hand if the victim turns his face to the right.

Essentially what is means is standing one's ground before an oppressor in such a way as not to provoke him further but also not to permit him to repeat the insult.

In the milieu of the time no Roman would attack a Jew with their fist, since that would mean that they were facing an equal. The Roman can only hit a social inferior with the back of his hand, to do anything more demeans him.

So when the inferior person turns the other cheek the superior person is necessarily defeated. He cannot assert his dominance any further. Of course there can be consequences later, but in the face-off the inferior person is in effect declaring their equality and their refusal to be cowed.

If we take this understanding of the situation, we see that Jesus is not so much teaching non-violence as non-cooperation. He is encouraging us to stand up for ourselves but to do so in a way that enhances our human dignity and does not degenerate into unnecessary violence.

By going on to talk about loving your enemy Jesus takes things further and stresses that we should see things the way God sees them. We should realise that we are all equal and all deserve prayer and love.

By dividing the world into good and evil persons we do a disservice to our brothers and sisters in the human family. While there surely are people who are wholly good and others who are wholly evil, most of us fall somewhere in between.

What Jesus wants is for us to adopt a divine perspective and to see other people as they really are. He wants us to pray for everyone and to love them as God loves them. Jesus understands perfectly well that the best way to get people to behave better is to treat them with dignity and to appeal to their better instincts.

This means that we should see the good in others, it means we should treat even our enemies as brothers. By acting towards others in this way brings the good out of them and frees them from the grip of the evil that they have fallen into.

What we have therefore in this passage is not so much a teaching about unequivocal non-violence or love for enemies who continue to hate us. No, what Jesus is suggesting is that we should think more cleverly. We should stymie the oppressor by refusing to accept their insults and disarm our enemies by treating them as our brothers.

Jesus is telling us not to follow the ways of the world, which clearly lacks intelligence and perpetuates old oppressions. This only leaves people stuck and unable to move forward.

Jesus is telling us that we should be agents of real change in the world by acting in unexpected ways. He is inviting us to think through the consequences of the old ways of doing things and to come up with new and unexpected ways of dealing with difficult situations. He wants us to be free and upright citizens of our world, he wants us to be rid of old oppressions and to be dignified citizens of our world.

This means that we do not go along with the crowd but rather approach the various situations of life with new and imaginative thinking as befits a disciple of Christ. He wants us to see the world not from the bottom up like a victim but from the top down as God does. And by seeing the world the way it really is we will find that we are in a far better position to change it.

While the message of non-violence has a great deal of merit, I believe it is not what Jesus is actually teaching here. He is preaching a Gospel of intelligence and imagination. He is inviting us to be active agents in the transformation of the world rather than being passive subjects and victims of old forms of oppression.

Jesus wants us to be liberated and free citizens of the world, active agents in its transformation. He wants us to be the ones who will change the world and bring it ever closer to the Kingdom of God which is its true destiny.
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