Sunday, March 3, 2019

7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME C: Becoming truly the Children of God

FEBRUARY 24, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

The people we love are those who are good to us. The people we lend money to are those from whom we can expect repayment. And these are most likely to be expected from everybody. Goodness begets goodness. We are naturally attracted to what is pleasant. Jesus says: “Even sinners do the same.”

The Lord in today’s gospel pushes us more to the extremes of love. He tells us: “Love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back.” The Lord challenges us to do more than what is naturally expected of us. He tells us to go to the very extreme limits of loving. He tells us: “You can do more than just loving those who are good to you. You can do more than lend money to those from whom you can expect payment. You can do more because you are greater than the ordinary. You are more than what is just natural…You are children of the Most High who is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” The Lord reminds us of who we are: We are children of God. Therefore, we must strive to imitate God: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” The kindness of God extends even to those who do not deserve it.

2 Sundays ago, we heard of the vision of God’s holiness which was given to the prophet Isaiah. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts,” the cherubim sang unceasingly. We said that the holiness of God means that he is unlike any of his creatures. His excellence consists in absolute goodness. Here is where God’s goodness exceeds that of all his creatures: his kindness goes beyond the limits of pleasantness. It extends even to the ingrates and to the wicked. The Lord loves not only those who love him. He loves even those who despise him. This we know is true for if he did not love the wicked, then they would cease to exist. He allows the sun to shine on both the good and the bad. He allows the rain to fall on both the saint and the sinner.

And so, our duty as children of God is to love as God loves. Jesus has proven that he is truly the Son of God. When he was crucified, Jesus prayed to his Father: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” To the repentant thief, he gave the assurance: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus is merciful as his Father is merciful. Now, he tells us to do the same: I give you a new commandment “Love one another as I have loved you.” He loved us even though we are unworthy and ungrateful. Therefore, our love becomes truly like that of the Father when we forgive and when we do good to those who hate us. Love is our response to their hatred.

St. Paul says in the 2nd reading that the natural comes first, then the spiritual. Therefore, our love as Christians must progress from the natural to the spiritual. We begin from loving what is naturally appealing. Then, little by little, we strive to become like Jesus. At first, we might feel it to be naturally repulsive to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us. But we try to defeat this repulsion by our self denial: “Lord, help me deny myself by loving those who hate me.” Slowly, we become like Jesus. We learn to forgive those who have offended us. We learn to love those who hate us. Eventually, “we shall bear the image of the heavenly one.” To err is human, to forgive is divine. We are called to that divinity for we are children of the Father who is good even to the ungrateful and to the wicked.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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