Reflecting God’s Holiness In Us

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week 7-A, 19 February 2017
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18//1Corinthians 3:16-23//Matthew 5:38-48

Today’s Gospel is admittedly the most difficult in all of Jesus Christ’s teachings because it seems to be so unrealistic. Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well. 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 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the un just.” (Mt.5:38-39,43-45)

Jesus continues His sermon on the mount this Sunday by stressing once more with authority as the Son of God that He had come to fulfill and bring into perfection the Laws and the prophets of the Old Testament. Last Sunday He preached the value of human life, not only forbidding murder, adultery and oaths but insisting to be full of love by avoiding things that destroy our bonds like anger or hatred, lust, and insincerity. Today He shows that true love always takes the path of non-violence wherein the cycle of vengeance and retaliations are put to an end by transcending it with mercy. Love is best expressed in mercy like what God does to us. It may seem to be unrealistic but when we look deeper into it, we shall find that indeed it is the best path because love is still and will always be more powerful than anything in the universe that can always change the hardest heart.

Let us examine the Lord’s first instruction: “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.” (Mt.5:39) To be slapped on the right cheek, the offender has to use the back of his hand; for the Jews, to slap using the back of the hand is reserved for animals. Hence, to offer the other cheek (left side) after being slapped on the right side means the offender has to swing back his arm and hand to slap you anew but this time using his palm. In doing so, then he begins to recognize you as a person, a brother or sister and co-equal. If that is so, then why is he slapping or hurting you? A lot often in life, it is always best to teach any lesson by making someone realize a hard truth by his/her very actions. Jesus is not asking us to allow others to hurt and harass us freely; He is teaching us to make those who bully us realize their grave mistake in not recognizing us as a brother or a sister. During His interrogation in front of the High Priest on Holy Thursday, Jesus was slapped on His right cheek by a servant. He offered no resistance but simply asked the servant, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Jn.18:23) The great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did exactly that during his peaceful campaign for civil rights movement in the States in the late 50’s. His followers were even insulting him for refusing to fight back against the atrocities of authorities against their black and even white supporters, claiming love is more powerful than bullets and tear gas. He himself would later be killed but not his dream that was soon fulfilled when finally America realized their grave mistake in racial segregation.

The Lord’s second teaching on loving one’s enemies and praying for those who persecute us is another beautiful lesson proven to be true and valuable in recent history. In a study published more than ten years ago in a university in the US, psychologists claim that the best form of vengeance is actually to do good things to people who have hurt us. Too bad I could no longer find that newspaper clipping but I remember that according to these experts, whenever the person we have wronged forgives us and does good things to us, that is when we are haunted most by the evil we have done against them. Nakokonsiyensiya tayo lalong higit. Here we find the Lord’s teaching about loving our enemies has scientific basis. Jesus Christ is not unrealistic after all in His calls for us to be merciful to those who hurt and wrong us because it is doable in His grace. Most of all, it leads us to more freedom from our pains and hurts and the people who inflicted them on us by setting us free to more growth and maturity in love and mercy.

This Sunday, Jesus Christ is challenging us not merely to be good persons but to be holy like God. Being holy is not being sinless. Being holy is being full of God, full of His love and mercy, full of His kindness and forgiveness. That is where the true power of God lies, not in strength but in weakness. We for our part must also learn to love God and others in our own weaknesses. It is a process that never ends but slowly perfects us into better persons. Since the time of Moses, this has been the call of God to His people, “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”(Lev.19:2) Jesus reiterated this today in His sermon on the mount, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt.5:48) In our own time, Vatican II echoed this call in Lumen Gentium with its “universal call to holiness” of every Christian in order to make this world “more humane.” Each of us has to be a reflection of the holiness of God for we are all the “temple of the Holy Spirit” as St. Paul expressed to the Corinthians in our second reading. This we achieve when we prayerfully read/listen to the Sacred Scriptures and most especially when we receive the sacraments, specifically the Holy Eucharist where Jesus’ Body and Blood nourish and bless us. Such is the goodness of God that He has always tried to be near us, even sending us His Son Jesus Christ. That song “From a Distance” may sound cute with its tune but its message is totally untrue: God is not watching us because God is with us, personally involved with us in our history. But, are we also involved with Him?
Notice how in the past half century history had proven Jesus Christ right in His sermon on the mount with the many peaceful, non-violent revolutions. Aside from the American civil rights movement of the 60’s, we have our own EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986 that have inspired the South African “miracle” where after many centuries of bitter divisions and wounds by apartheid, the nation was united and healed in a process of reconciliation led by the late Nelson Mandela. There was also the peaceful collapse of the Iron Curtain following the fall of Berlin Wall in the late 80’s and to some degree, the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 90’s. What happened? All peaceful revolutions prospered except our EDSA that has degenerated into a notorious symbol of everything that is wrong with us? May we be the reflections of the holiness of God like during the historic five days of February 1986 in EDSA. A blessed week ahead!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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