Homily – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel today tells us of one of the most radical aspects of Christianity. It is a belief unique to the Christian religion that clearly sets us apart from the other monotheistic religions. That belief is that we are called to love our enemies, to do good to those who hates us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us. These are clearly hard things to do. It is much easier for us to understand: an eye for an eye. It is much easier for us to understand the notion of revenge or what some people might call justice. After all the Jewish faith tells us an eye for an eye. Islam that you should cut off the hand of a thief. These seem like more natural notions for us. They are easier to understand. They seem to make more sense according to what our feelings tell us. But we are not called only to an earthly or natural reality. As the second reading tells us, we are also called to a heavenly or supernatural one. We are called to bear the image of the heavenly one Jesus Christ.
This is the fundamental meaning of what it means to be a Christian. We must conform ourselves into the image and likeness of Christ. That image is of one who is willing to die for others. It is one who meets all the criteria mentioned in the Gospel. He loves his enemies, he does good to those who hate him by dying for their sins, he blesses those who curse him and prays for those who mistreat him. This is made clear from the cross. After he had been bruised, beaten, scourged, whipped, cursed, spat upon, mocked and given over to die he prays for those who did it to him. In the midst of that execution, he calls to his father in heaven and pleads for mercy for those killing them: Forgive them Father for they know not what they do. That is heavenly Justice; that is heavenly Mercy; that is what we are all called to as Christians.
Now that might seem like a lot or it might seem like it is impossible. Both are true if we look at it from a human standpoint. As far as impossibility goes I refer you to Phil 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” As far as it being a lot or too much we need to understand that it is no more than has already been given to us in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many of you have heard about the controversy surrounding a new film that is coming out on Ash Wednesday by Mel Gibson called The Passion of the Christ. Some claim it is too violent and some claim it is anti-semetic. I know good and holy people who have seen it and they say it is neither. They say it is a good portrayal of the Gospels and the crucifixion. They say it is a prayer. One great priest I know said it changed forever the way he will say the Mass. The main question that has been raised by Jewish leaders is does it portray the Jewish people as responsible for the death of Christ.
I think that can be answered by watching the first nail go through Christ’s hand in the movie. The hands that hold the nail and drive it in with the hammer are those of Mel Gibson’s own. We don’t see his face, just his hands. There is a profound truth being conveyed here. Mr. Gibson is saying “I killed Christ”. That is true for all of us. The answer to the question of who is responsible for Christ’s death is: “We are.” Each and everyone of us must say “I killed Christ.” Why? Because we have sinned and Christ needed to pay the price for our sin. He paid that price by dying on the cross. He paid the price because we couldn’t. That is the gift we have been given. That is the gift also which gives us the power, ability and responsibility to love our enemies and forgive them their sins. What we are given, we are expected to give in return.
The extent to which we are blessed is fundamentally tied up in how we share those blessings with others. To whom much has been given, much will be required. You notice it clearly in our Gospel today. Stop judging then you will not be judged. Stop condemning then you will not be condemned. Forgive then you will be forgiven. Give then gifts will be given to you and in greater abundance than what you gave. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
How many of us go to God asking for more of this or more of that? How many of us ask him to make us more generous. More forgiving. More loving. Or are other, earthly things our priority?
Lent is a time to reassess our priorities. We meditate on the Passion, Death and resurrection of Christ to remind ourselves of the great gift we have already been given in our salvation. We deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ as he walks the road to a complete gift of self for others.
The disciplines, mortifications, and penances are things we do to bring ourselves closer to Christ. We give up things that are temptations or keep us from Christ. We take on new things that bring us closer to Christ. These are the two ways we should evaluate our Lenten practices. What things in my life tend to distract me from Christ? Then you give those up. What do I need to do to draw closer to Christ? Then you add these on.
One of the students in CCD asked me what they could do for Lent. I suggested pray 15 minutes in front of a crucifix each day. They said that isn’t giving something up. I said: “Sure it is. Your giving up the 15 minutes you could be doing something else and giving it to Christ.” They said but 15 minutes is such a long time. I said “It depends on how you look at it.” If your parents told you that you could only talk to your friends 15 minutes a day. Or you could only watch 15 minutes of television, or you only could have 15 minutes to do what you want… how would you feel. You would probably say…. That isn’t enough. If 15 minutes seems like a long time to pray then that is exactly something we should add. Only 15 minutes with someone we love a day isn’t a long time. If it is then we ought to question if our love is true. I would also suggest that it be 15 minutes of thanksgiving for the blessings in our lives.
Finally I encourage you to see the film: The Passion of the Christ. I will be seeing it this week and probably more than once during Lent. Why? Because I want to be reminded and reminded clearly of the price Christ paid for my sins. If we remember the goodness we have been given then that will inspire us to give more. We will be judged as Christians on judgement day by whether or not we did our best to conform our lives to Christ. Christ gave all and we are called to as well. Christ says “the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” The good news is we get to choose what we do with the gifts we have been given. The choice is yours. Choose well.
Homily – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time