The readings for the seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time emphasize that only God can satisfy the hungers of the human heart. The Lord tells Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord, Your God, am holy.” We are thereby invited into a state of holiness that will fulfill the deepest longings of the human heart.
These longings for God exclude attitudes of hatred for others. Our union with God excludes movements of the heart against the best interests of others, such as revenge or hatred. Such movements bring exclusion from God, not union with Him, which brings sadness to our hearts, which cry out for union.
Paul, in the second reading, takes our relationship with God one step further. Here he makes it clear that the Holy Spirit we received in Baptism makes us temples of the Holy Spirit. Since we are temples of the Holy Spirit, we are indeed holy. The living God dwells within us.
So, if the living God dwells within us, we belong to God, not just to ourselves. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” We destroy God’s temple when we refuse to obey God’s commandments, or when we even go further and reject God Himself.
This Spirit that dwells in us knows the deepest movements of our heart. Paul tells us: “God catches the wise in their own ruses,” and again: “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are in vain.”
When we pray, the Holy Spirit reveals to us both the good movements of our hearts toward God, as well as evil movements away from God. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we need to immediately move back to God through repentance and reconciliation. This makes us again one with God within us. When we repent, God’s thriving and throbbing life again nurtures our hearts with godliness.
Many newer cars have sensors that help keep us from crashing into other cars. However, if those sensors are blocked, drivers are warned to be alert. That same principle applies to our relationship with God and others. The Holy Spirit serves as that sensor. If through serious sin we block the Holy Spirit from warning us of dangers, we can expect to crash our relationship with others and with God.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us what it takes to stay in union with God. “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 as well.” Because this goes against our instinctive behavior, it points to Godly behavior. That is exactly what our Savior did for us again and again. In other words, this behavior is out of our league unless we get Godly help.
Jesus goes on to say: “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles.”
I remember a priest once humorously quipping: “The next time someone calls me during my favorite TV program, I will ask him when his favorite TV program is, so that I can go the extra mile and call him back.” Of course, this is not the meaning of Jesus’ statement. Going the extra mile simply means I will go beyond what the other is asking of me and show them God’s goodness to me and share that goodness with them.
Jesus says: “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…” Your prayer for those who offend you has a two-fold effect. First, it is asking God to pour out His blessings on the person who hurt you. God’s blessing for that person will pass through you before it reaches the person who hurt you. Not only are you blessed directly when you pray for someone who hurt you, but you are also protected from a number of evil spirits that want to take up residence within you. These spirits may include the evil spirits of revenge, anger, retaliation, self-hatred and self-condemnation.
Do yourself a favor and ask the Holy Spirit to help you recall instances of negative behavior toward others. First, ask Jesus for forgiveness for that sin, and then simply name the negative spirit. For example, if the sin is anger, simply say in the power of the Holy Spirit, “Spirit of anger (resentment, unforgiveness, hatred, bitterness, retaliation) in the name of Jesus I cancel all agreements with you, and in the name of Jesus I command you to leave me and go to the feet of Jesus, and obey Him.” Then ask the Holy Spirit to fill in all those areas with God’s love and mercy.
This is an eye-opening experience, because possibly you did not know that these evil spirits were so silently working on you, simply to foment division. “Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Here is the good news. The person who hurt you does not have the power to cause you so much pain. That pain comes from the invisible evil spirit that is silently at work within you. Simply repent of your sin and command that evil spirit, in the name of Jesus to depart, and it must and will depart.