Year A: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Moses, Matthew and Paul remind us that God’s love rains on the just and the unjust alike. So must ours.

Jesus Helping Hand

Leviticus 19:1-2.17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48

God never treats the individual merely as an end, but always in relationship and as a means to further encounters with other people.  So, Moses in Leviticus is asked to speak to the whole community. And God commands him to teach the people who they really are – non-haters, truth-tellers, non-revenge takers, non-grudge bearers, and lovers of their neighbours. Holiness desires all to be called to holiness, in reflection of itself.  This is centuries before Jesus asked us to love our neighbour – as ourselves. The old covenant is embodied and reflected in the new. 

Paul spreads his net even wider than the author of Leviticus, since he has learnt from Jesus’ model. He asks the Corinthians (tempted to be worldly wise and boastful) to share his realisation: they are the temple of God – God living amongst them. The wisdom of the ‘world’ has to be recognised as folly before the wisdom can reveal that the human world (everything – including Paul – life, death, the present, the future) can only boast in belonging to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. It is so simply but awesomely put. We have grown so used to Paul’s mystic ways that we have failed to recognise the utter brilliance of his inspiration. But he asserts that Christ has enveloped all humanity in his Divine embrace. We all belong to God! Amazing that Paul can present what has dawned on him, with patience and relative calmness in what would have been arresting words even to the Corinthians: “You are that Temple”! The temple of the sacred God! We relegate Paul’s words to the category of hyperbole and Semitic exaggeration and so do him wrong. He reaches into the very heart of the mystical way with God, and his words wrestle withawareness of our capacity for holiness in God. 

Matthew has Jesus struggle with the same reality of how to translate the divine words into human hearts so that they can be open and dynamic rather than repeat traditional formulae: “You have learnt how it was said…. but I say to you.” The demands revealed by dialogue would need the illustration of the cross. In the light of that death and the experience of the resurrection, the words of Jesus here sear into us like a branding iron: “But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The immense perfection of the inclusivity of the heart of God stands out stark and brilliant here. We must so love inclusively – because that is what God is like. His love rains on the just, the honest and the unjust, the dishonest alike. So must ours.  This perspective reaches its climactic summons. It made sense only when lived out to the cross. The human (categorised as the ‘pagan’) reaches its perfection by imitation of the divine – in being inclusive, in excluding no-one from love. This perfect sacrificial love was to speak most eloquently from the cross.  Without the experience of the death and resurrection of Jesus, neither Paul nor Matthew could have written their “realisations” of the nature of the dialogue.