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Called to be a community of Radical Standards: The Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Called to be a community of Radical Standards:

The Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

February 19, 2023

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48


          The Jesus sayings from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount continues with hard lessons for discipleship. It is difficult enough to love those close to us, and now Jesus is asking us to love our enemies. It almost seems impossible to do. Yet, it is the right teaching for us as we enter Lent later this week and we examine how we are to live as the People of God under God’s rule. This Sermon lays out the groundwork for our moral life in this world. 


          Jesus’s preaching is about the poor, the hungry, and those who are weeping in Israel, and he is representing the needs of those who are on the margins – the hopeless, the oppressed, and the despairing. His preaching announces that God’s intervention is about to take place and is already taking place. He announces, not that the poor will have better live in this world or after death, but they will participate in the reign of God. He is reconstituting an Israel that has lost its way, and he is establishing a new society in which the poor and marginalized will have a share in the wealth of the land. This new society has a distinct set of expectations that we hear about in the Gospel.


          Jesus is not focused upon reforming Israel as much as he is inviting the whole world, of whatever distinction, into this new family. Israel was always destined to make an offer of salvation to the Gentiles, and to all the nations and faiths, and to people of goodwill. We notice that God pursues, not a nation, not Israel, nor the church, but human beings – individually. God calls us into a new community in which mercy is the defining criterion for admission, and a place in which one’s sins have been forgiven through that mercy and compassion. 


As we see if the Matthew’s passages today, the reign of God has consequences for human behavior. Once we are in this community of discipleship, our forgiveness, tolerance, and understanding of one another undoubtedly has to match God’s radical forgiveness. We say that we want to do it, and yet our actions and words reveal that we are not yet understanding the implications of God’s rule in our behavior. Humans have to be responsible for their actions, and God makes demands upon those who have accepted God’s invitations. Jesus points out that God’s presence and rule establishes new and definitive standards for human actions. 


          These standards are high for individuals, and though God calls us individually, we are called into a community so that we can rise together through the Spirit. Because of the mercy we receive, we are to practice tolerance, understanding, slow to anger, and abounding in kindness. As Saint Paul said, you are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and God dwells within you. God’s reign comes about when you act in accord with the Sermon on the Mount. God’s reign is manifest through you, your behaviors, and your words. When we are tested and at our wit’s end and do not know how to go forward, the reign of God happens because we give space to God alone, and it is God who is acting through us. The reign of God rests within you. What an awesome responsibility. What a tremendous privilege. 


Scripture for Daily Mass


First Reading: 

Monday: (Sirach 1) All wisdom comes from the LORD and with him it remains forever and is before all time. Before all things else wisdom was created; and prudent understanding, from eternity.


Tuesday: (Sirach 2) My son, when you come to serve the LORD, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of adversity.


Wednesday: (Joel 2) Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.


Thursday: (Deuteronomy 30) Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.


Friday (Isaiah 58) Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God.


Saturday (Isaiah 58) If you hold back your foot on the sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD’s holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth.



Monday: (Mark 9) They ran up to him and greeted him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.”


Tuesday: (Mark 9) "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise." But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.


Wednesday (Matthew 6) Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.


Thursday (Luke 9) The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. 


Friday (Mark 9) “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”


Saturday (Luke 5) Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.


Saints of the Week


February 21: Peter Damian, bishop and Doctor (1007-1072), was orphaned and raised by his brother, Damian, a priest in Ravenna. He began as a hermit monk and was then made abbot and cardinal. He became a reformer in the church often speaking out against clerical laxness. 


February 22: The Chair of Peter is celebrated on this day. Previously, both Peter and Paul were remembered until their feast was transferred to June 29th. As the custom was ingrained in practice, Christians continued to honor the contributions Peter made to the church as the first of the apostles in continuous succession.


February 23: Polycarp, bishop and martyr (69-155), was made bishop of Smyrna and was the leader of the second generation Christians. He was a disciple of the apostle John and a friend of Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote catechesis and rites for initiation into the Christian community. He was martyred in 155 and is a Father of the early church. 


This Week in Jesuit History


  • February 19, 1581. The election of Fr. Claude Acquaviva as fifth general in the Fourth General Congregation. He was only 37 years of age and a Jesuit for only 14 years. He was general under eight popes. He had been a fellow novice with St Stanislaus. 
  • February 20, 1860. Pope Pius IX visits the rooms of St Ignatius. 
  • February 21, 1595. At Tyburn, the martyrdom of Robert Southwell after he had suffered brutal tortures in Topcliffe's house and in prison. He embraced the jailer who brought him word that he was to be executed. As he breathed his last, Lord Mountjoy, who presided over the execution, exclaimed: "May my soul be one day with that of this man." 
  • February 22, 1599. By order of Pope Clement VIII, the superiors general of the Jesuits and the Dominicans, assisted by others, met to settle, if possible, the controversies about grace. Nothing came of the meeting, since the Dominicans insisted on the condemnation of the writings of Fr. Molina. 
  • February 23, 1551. The Roman College, the major school of the Society later to become the Gregorian University, began its first scholastic year with 15 teachers and 60 students. 
  • February 24, 1637. The death of Francis Pavone. Inflamed by his words and holy example, sixty members of a class of philosophy that he taught and the entire class of poetry embraced the religious state. 
  • February 25, 1558. St Aloysius Gonzaga received tonsure at the Lateran basilica. Within the next month he would receive the minor orders.


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