Gospel Reflection Feb 19 – Kim VanHuffel

Sunday, February 19

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 5: 38-48


Jesus said to his disciples:

“You have heard that it was said,

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.

When someone strikes you on your right cheek,

turn the other one as well.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,

hand over your cloak as well.

Should anyone press you into service for one mile,

go for two miles.

Give to the one who asks of you,

and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was 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,

that you may be children of your heavenly Father,

for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,

and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?

Do not the tax collectors do the same?

And if you greet your brothers only,

what is unusual about that?

Do not the pagans do the same?

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Gospel Reflection:

In the Old Testament reading today, God tells Moses to advise the community to be holy, because He is holy. Then fast forward to our Gospel reading and Jesus tells us to be perfect because our heavenly Father is perfect.

He also lays out how we can grow toward holiness and perfection — it is not by following the letter of the law — he says he comes to fulfill that law. And when the law is fulfilled, through conversion of heart and reorienting our lives toward peace and love, the “law” is no longer needed. If I operate out of love, I no longer think about retaliation and revenge — a tooth for a tooth. If I operate out of love, I would automatically go the extra mile for someone, give freely and even “love” my enemy. It is a radical change and call for non-violence by Jesus.

But it does not mean that we need to be walked upon and mistreated. Thomas Aquinas says that love is “willing the good of the other.” That doesn’t mean we have to be friends with our enemy, just not wish bad things for them, and maybe even pray for them.

This change of heart Jesus asks for is for our own good because God loves us. Has anyone ever mistreated you to the point that you wished something bad would happen to them? Have you been so mad at someone that that is all you can think about? Who does that anger and obsession hurt? Not the other person, just ourselves. God loves us so much that he is teaching us to love our enemies because it is bad for us, mind, body and soul, to keep anger and hatred in our hearts. Have you ever experienced complete forgiveness toward someone else? Then you realize how freeing and peaceful that is in comparison. God is love, and if we want to be holy like God, we need to allow love to overcome the temptation to hang onto anger, bitterness, jealousy, selfishness, etc.

As we approach Lent, with an emphasis on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, it would be a good practice for us to pray to God for conversion of our hearts, and those of our enemies. Allow the peace of Christ to invade our lives, and go the extra mile in service toward others.

Kim VanHuffel

Pastoral Associate