Who are we to love? Jesus surprises us
Living the Word l Carla Oliver
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time l Feb. 19
Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18; Psalm 103:1-2,3-4,8,10,12-13; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48
Looking at the Sunday readings and knowing that I was responsible for writing a reflection to share with all of you was quite daunting. I followed my usual routine — to carve out three separate times in my week of prep to pray through these particular passages, to sit with Jesus in his words, and to listen to what the Holy Spirit wanted me to hear. There was an uncomfortable amount of silence. I thought over many times what I could or should say, and still felt like I was coming up with blanks.
However, the more I came to accept the silence and be comfortable in it, the more I realized it wasn’t that there was nothing there to write — it was that the Lord was inviting me deeper and I was resisting.
Like the good father He is, God made himself known.
Reading the acclamation of the Alleluia — “Whoever keeps the word of Christ, the love of God is truly perfected in him” — captured me, reminding me that when the words of the Scriptures feel too heavy or hyperbolic for me to relate to it usually means that Jesus needed to use big language to make a big point.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
In this week’s Gospel passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is seeking to help us understand the true meaning of the law, by continuing to call out the pattern of “You have heard it said, but I say. . . .” He is helping us go from a bare minimum faith to a deeper understanding of our baptismal call to know God, to serve God, and to love God above all things.
We often want to do the bare minimum, but Jesus calls us to a deeper level of commitment, showing our love for Christ in every area.
There is gentleness from Jesus to show establishment of the law and to bring righteous justice to the early Christians. From the early days of salvation history generations have used the commandments as our compass and interpretation of the law. Jesus shows that people are hearing “you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy” but challenges them to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
BEARING OUR CROSSES
Interestingly enough, the command to “love your neighbor but hate your enemy” isn’t found in Scripture. Since part of this command (“hate your enemy”) is not found in Scripture, it is a sign that so often we conform the Bible to what we think it ought to say. The Jews were OK with loving their neighbors (other Jews) but not with loving their enemies (Gentiles). Jesus takes it up 100 notches by telling His audience to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. Why? Jesus calls us to love in this way to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus isn’t asking us to do anything He isn’t willing to do Himself. . . . What cross are you willing to bear this week for the sake of the Gospel?
Jesus isn’t asking us to do anything He isn’t willing to do Himself. He was mocked, insulted, retaliated against, and yet He went to the cross, to the joy set before him. What cross are you willing to bear this week for the sake of the Gospel?
CARLA OLIVER is the administrative assistant in the diocesan Office of Vocations. A former missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), her experience included leading Bible studies. She can be reached at email@example.com.