Homily for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
We humans are a funny lot. We get caught in so many things… we judge, we complain, we can get our noses bent out of shape…but more importantly, we can love! From early on, we want life to be balanced and fair. We want to be fair to our children, our students, our employees, our neighbours. And we want others to be fair to us.
In the Gospel for today, Jesus tells us to love without limit, to go beyond being fair… for he says, “if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” As Christians, we are called to radically trust in the power of love beyond what is fair. Jesus introduces us to the golden rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.” And if you do not think that this is appropriate for today or practical, especially “turning the other cheek….” let me share with you:
I remember when I was about 10-11 and I was staying with family friends for 3 weeks while my parents were visiting with other family in British Columbia. The mother of this home was a very pious and holy woman. One evening at supper she got angry with her brother who often came for the evening meal. He has a teenage son who was always getting into trouble: crashing cars, drinking, not showing up for work, fired and the list goes on. There was always a new disaster with him. So she was getting upset that this young guy was taking advantage of his father… her brother. I remember that she was in a rage and said something like: “He’s making a fool out of you… you’re always there to bail him out, no matter what! When will you realize this? But this man loved his son so much that he did not care. She literally yelled at him, “don’t give me that ‘turn the other cheek stuff!’” No one said a word… and everyone kept on eating… I think I was in shock… this pious woman had another side.
I share that little story with you because that “turn the other cheek stuff” is what it mans for us to follow Jesus, as today’s Gospel makes clear. And to follow Jesus continues to be counter-cultural, radical. It is often the way of doing the opposite of our first inclination. And so very often we must admit it is beyond our ability. Of course it is! We have to depend on Jesus to stretch our hearts wider and wider and show us how. Jesus can do it, that is if we cooperate with his love.
The beauty is that we are not finished products yet. We are all on the way of learning how to love as Jesus loves. As we journey through life, with every new experience, every new relationship, every new opportunity to treat people the way that we want to be treated, draws us deeper in relationship with our God. And when we reach that perfected state, when we have learned as Jesus taught, we will return to God. I’ve said it before and I will say it again… as terrible as this pandemic has been for the past two years, the other side of this pandemic experience has been graced time… time given to separate, to spend more time by ourselves and to think about who we are and what we are doing as Christians. A time to refocus and to begin to embrace a new church that has been emerging. Jesus addresses those who are hurt, wounded or lost and reminds them that God is there! I leave you with this last thought: Every time we gather here for mass, Jesus is not only present, but grateful for this time together with us. And he is especially grateful for those who gather and do not to have it all together (that would be all of us!). Jesus says you don’t have to be perfect… just keep walking with me. Keep going… with me. Do as I do… turn the other cheek… do for others as you would want others to do for you… let’s do it together… let’s do it now. Amen