Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 LV 19:1-2, 17-18
Responsorial Psalm PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
- The Lord is kind and merciful.
Reading 2 1 COR 3:16-23
Alleluia 1 JN 2:5
Whoever keeps the word of Christ,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 5:38-48
Homily for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 2/23/2020
Even though there is still some snow outside, the sun is out longer and it is starting to get warmer, signaling spring is near, but the thing that always tells me spring is close is the start of baseball. In case you missed it, baseball season got underway this weekend at spring training in Florida and Arizona.
The Cubs played their first game last night, they won but it’s probably too early to tell if they have gotten any better this off-season, specifically if their pitching has improved...
Pitching tends to be the biggest factor for winning in baseball, and one of the most difficult things to do in baseball is for a pitcher to throw a perfect game.
For those of you that aren’t that familiar with baseball, a perfect game is when a pitcher doesn’t allow a single player to reach base. It is a no-hitter but better, so not a single person gets on base, via a walk, hit by a pitch, or an error… It is very difficult to accomplish.
For comparison, since 1875, with 218,400 games played, there have been 303 no hitters, but there have only been 23 perfect games ever thrown in MLB history.
Often when I go to a game, even if it is the first batter, if they reach base I’ll say, “well, there goes the perfect game.” That probably qualifies as a corny “Dad joke” but I think it is funny.
Anyway, even though it is next to impossible, every time a pitcher steps on the mound, a perfect game is what he is trying for, whether he’ll admit it or not, that is the goal, but perfection is rarely accomplished.
At the end of our gospel today, Jesus said to his disciples, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And in the first reading from Leviticus the Lord said, “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.”
Talk about impossible! Being perfect and being holy like God! Who can achieve that? And why does God expect it?
To make matters worse, we read in the book of Revelation that we have to be pure to enter heaven, basically, we have to be perfect to get into heaven.
While that may seem impossible, it still has to be our goal, to be perfect, and to be holy. Paul said in the second reading, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? ... for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”
God has created us to be holy, and even though He knows that perfection is basically impossible to do on earth, He still tells us to aim for that.
What it really comes down to is how we love. In all of the readings, we get clues on how to love perfectly, to be holy.
Through the many examples, Jesus seems to boil it down to one sentence, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
This is not easy. Jesus points out that it is different from how the world acts, but He still asks us to love differently, even if people think we are fools for it. God loves everyone, even if they don’t love Him back, and He wants us to love them also.
As we go through life, we learn how to love, to be holy like God, to be perfect. As children, we learn how to share, whether that is with our brother and sisters, or with those in need. We learn how to play nicely with each other.
As adults when we have children, we love them unconditionally. And we begin to understand how God could love us unconditionally. We start to recognize that even though we haven’t been perfect all of our lives we’re still expected to love unconditionally.
“The Lord is kind and merciful” the psalm says, because He is teaching us to be kind and merciful, to our children and to others.
And at some point in all of our lives we suffer, sometimes that is persecution, sometimes it is disease, and sometimes it is suffering through not getting what we want.
Honestly, one of the most difficult and most common sufferings we feel is when we don’t get what we want, when we don’t get our way, our expectations aren’t met… it’s selfishness on our part... but love even overcomes our self-centered desires.
And when we suffer for any reason, but especially out of love, we come to a deeper appreciation of Jesus who came to earth to suffer and die for our sins out of love for us, opening those gates to heaven.
Our time here on earth is to learn how to love and to grow in perfection. I know I am not perfect myself, but I am trying, and that is what God asks of us.
If we get to the end of our earthly life and we still aren’t perfect, God will work that out with us in purgatory because that is what purgatory is. A time, a space, a place, which is meant to purify and perfect us. To finish the process we have started here. To take away those imperfections left within us at the time of our death.
It’s a slow, gradual process, and I don’t want anyone to be worried after hearing Jesus’ words…
People today have enough anxiety over the pursuit of perfection in the classroom, at the job, or in their hobbies even. While perfection is next to impossible, we still aim for that, we still take those small steps, not getting overwhelmed that we haven’t achieved perfection yet.
Hopefully knowing God’s plan helps us to overcome any anxiety we have in knowing that we aren’t perfect here, so that we can just keep pursuing the ideal taking little steps, growing daily.
In order to grow daily, we should identify some ways in our lives that we can grow in love. How can we love better? Who in our lives do we need to forgive? Who should we pray for? Where should we be less selfish? How can our suffering help us to understand God’s love for us?
Just like a pitcher stepping on the mound, every day we should strive for perfection. Every day is an opportunity for growth in holiness. At night, at the end of the game, we should think about what we did well and where we went wrong and how we can do better tomorrow, and offer that all to God.
Every night this week, do a ‘post game review.’ Where could I have loved better? Make a practical resolution to do better. Go to confession if you need to. A pitcher only gets better by identifying the things he needs to improve on and working HARD to get better. The spiritual life is the same. Holiness is a muscle that needs to be worked.
Confident in God’s love for us, I pray that we would always strive to love better ourselves, thus gradually growing into the perfection and holiness we were made for.