The readings for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time suggest there is no limit to our participation in Godliness. The first reading states: "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." That's our open invitation to allow God to possess us with His holiness. He doesn't limit our participation in His goodness.
The more we desire His godliness, the more we discover ourselves doing what He does, loving everyone, even enemies. I shouldn't go out of my way to invite others to beat me up, but I also shouldn't run when they choose to do so. That is simply because love conquers evil. I may not change the attitude of attackers, but God's love within me protects me from participating in that perpetrator's evil.
The author states: "Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him." I can't reprove someone without sinning unless I have allowed God to conquer my heart with His love and forgiveness. He then tells us: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." In other words, if you want to participate in my holiness then you must do as I do.
St. Paul carries forward this theme in the second reading: "...for the temple of God, which you are, is holy." We are holy because we are temples of the Holy Trinity and we have God's holiness flowing through us. We can't earn this holiness; it's given when we choose to enter it. This holiness will turn worldly values upside-down, because it makes us participators in God's wisdom since we belong to Christ, "and Christ to God."
In the Gospel, Christ spells out how the holiness of God can change human behavior. The law of fleshly survival tells us: "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Jesus says: "Offer no resistance to the one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other as well." This might seem crazy.
When Christ allowed Himself to be scourged for our sake, was He crazy? That was the time He opened up the possibility of our entering into life with the Holy Trinity. In the mind of God, that wasn't irrational, but loving.
Jesus says: "Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two miles."
Jesus then reveals the real consequences of His teaching. We might put it like this: "If you love your enemies and pray for your persecutors, then you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust."
Did you ever think of it? The bad really need to be loved, and that is why Christ invites us into His holiness.
Hence, Jesus reveals the key to participating in the heavenly Father's holiness. When you and I act like our heavenly Father, we will participate in the His goodness. In other words, our heavenly Father doesn't calculate the effectiveness of His love, giving it only to those who will invest it wisely. He is the prodigal Father who splurges love on everyone.
You and I would like to cautiously invest our love in those who will return it. That behavior excludes us from participating in God's magnanimous holiness and love. The martyrs were reckless in their concern for their own flesh. They surrendered it to the torturers in order that God could splurge His mercy on their enemies. They did what their heavenly Father and Jesus did in order to bring souls into the kingdom.
How might this challenge my present compulsions? Is there someone in my life that could benefit spiritually from my forgiveness and intercession? Could I benefit spiritually by accommodating their hunger for love? Is there someone who feels that I do not like them because of some behavior of mine? What is the gift I could give them that would reflect the heavenly Father's love of them?
If the answer to that question is "yes" — and it probably is — then what are the steps that I can take to release God's love in their hearts? Might it help if I began by asking Jesus to show me how my actions or inactions have hurt them? Might I ask release from my own sins first, so that I can show them the love for which they are aching?
How much time do I waste watching endless hours of inane TV? Might I use my time better for the next unexpected challenge right around the corner by spending some time in prayer or reading the Scriptures?
If you and I love to have others listen to our concerns, do we in turn take the time to listen to God's concerns about us? Prayerfully reading the Scriptures is like falling in love with an invisible presence that releases its goodness deep in our hearts. His words are love-power that finds us discovering lovingly good deeds flowing from our hearts in a surprising fashion. Don't seek the consolation of God in prayer and Scripture reading, but rather seek the holiness of God and let His consolations take you by surprise. RELATED ARTICLE(S):I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | 'Great gift' of poverty leads to total trust in God