Saturday, February 18, 2017

Gospel text for Sunday 19 February 2017

Matthew 5:38-48        Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“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, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

 Reflection         Jesus is turning up the heat, inviting us to be honest, ethical and trustworthy -  as he is. Those words, honest, ethical and trustworthy, sound good but when we put them on they may itch, set us apart from the ways of the world. 

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” “The best defense is a good offense.” “Drastic times call for drastic measures.” “God helps those who help themselves.” Do we not appear inept, inadequate or just plain foolish in the eyes of the world when we choose instead to “Turn the other cheek?” “Refuse to mount a retaliatory attack?” “Put our trust in God rather than ourselves?”

Then we remember, like Jesus we are baptized. By our baptism we make a promise to God and God’s people, to “persevere in resisting evil,” to “proclaim by word and example the Good News” that God is with and for all people, to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” to “strive for justice and peace,” and “respect the dignity of every human being.” Essentially we are promising to be honest, ethical and trustworthy.

By our baptism we die to our ‘world defined’ selves and are born into our ‘God defined’ selves. When the priest anoints our forehead saying, “You are marked as Christ’s own forever,” she is saying, “you are distinguished, you are not like the rest of the world that proclaims, “The man who dies with the most toys wins,” “The only things you can count on are death and taxes.”

By our baptism and anointing we are born as people freed from the shackles of social, political and religious conditions that pit us against one another. By our baptism and anointing we are born as people freed to express our deepest truest self, our inherent goodness. By our baptism and anointing we are freed to love our neighbors, our enemies and those who persecute us. By our baptism and anointing we promise to be honest, ethical and trustworthy, with God's help. 

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