Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Love Your Enemies”

Lectionary Readings:

  • Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16-23. You are the temple of God. Do not be wise in a worldly way. All things are yours, you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.
  • Matthew 5:38-48. You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Love your enemies. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go two miles with them.

Thoughts for your consideration:

“Love your enemies”: this teaching is perhaps the greatest challenge that Christ offers us. For those of us who are Christians this teaching becomes the gauntlet that we are left to accept. This Gospel passage which we read this weekend is the culmination of Matthew’s fifth chapter which started with the Sermon on the Mount. In the sermon Jesus give us great hope in the mercy and justice of God but then he calls us to be ambassadors of these same qualities. The chapter ends with the invitation to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father if perfect”. This perfection hits home with the call to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. One can almost imagine the reaction of the audience who are stung with this challenge. Consider how the challenge affect us who have heard this teaching again and again and now consider how it is received by those who hear it for the first time after being enchanted with the message of the beatitudes. Imagine the people on the mount as they shake their heads in disbelief and start walking away from Jesus; the message of hope and promised dash by this condition of perfection.

But this condition is nothing more than a challenging articulation of our most basic theological principle. Many of us recognize the value of our human dignity that is based on scripture. The first reading reminds us of this reciprocal relationship that we have to each other through God. God is holy, thus we are holy. I am holy and my neighbor is holy. Throughout chapter 19 of Leviticus a number of teachings regarding social responsibilities to one’s neighbors are offered and each teaching ends with the clause “I am the Lord”. The beginning of the chapter reminds us that because “I, the Lord, your God, an Holy” we too are Holy so in teaching each social precept we are reminded that each of us bear the mark of holiness and that is condition which calls us to treat each other with the reverence that we are all due.  

This condition cannot be revoked. God has granted to each of us this amazing dignity and we are challenged to see it in each other. In teaching this principle to the Corinthian community St. Paul does not teach it as something new but instead reminds them of what they should have already known.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

We are holy; this is the basis of our dignity which we all share. There may be times when we struggle to identify the holiness in one another or even in ourselves but nevertheless we are challenged to see the holiness in each other. If this principle is true how then can we claim to have enemies? The only way that this is possible is if we eliminate the condition of holiness to one or another. But Paul tells us that this is not an option. If we destroy God’s temple that exist in one another then God will destroy us. By destroying the life of one we only succeed in eliminating our own holiness. This principle of human dignity sets the condition for why the Church’s moral position will not allow us to destroy life at any stage. Abortion, torture and the death penalty are situations where we act to destroy the holiness of another.

People will challenge us at different point is our lives. Some people will severely challenge our ability to accept their holiness. Jesus uses the most straining human relationship of persecution to make his point on how far we must accept this principle. There is no barrier or line that terminates the holiness of one another. The disciples were forced to accept the challenge that even their persecutors were to be treated with the dignity of holiness and this is the same challenge that Christ continues to offer us.

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About jdgonzo73

I am a Catholic lay minister in the field of Christian ethics, Latino theology and Paulacrucian spirituality. I am currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Fordham, an ad-junct professor at Molloy College and St. John's University and the Project Coordinator with the Catholic Roundtable.
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