24 February 20197 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
7 Ordinary Time
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 6:27-38

During the Revolutionary War, Arthur Tonne tells us, Peter Miller was pastor of a church in Pennsylvania. Living near his church was a fellow who enjoyed abusing Miller. Eventually the hostile was arrested for treason by George Washington. He was tried and found guilty. His sentence was hanging.

The pastor immediately journeyed to General Washington to plead for pardon for the condemned man. The general was not impressed. "Merely because he is your friend," said Washington, "I cannot free him." Miller replied, "If anything, he is my enemy." Washington was moved. "If you have walked sixty miles to plead for the life of an enemy, then I must indeed pardon the prisoner."

Immediately the Reverend raced to the place of execution. As he arrived, the spy was being brought out to the scaffold. Seeing the pastor, he shouted derisively, "Here comes the pastor to gloat over my hanging." Miller replied, "No. I bring you your pardon."

There are many people in our society such as the pastor. Their conduct is inspired by the Christ. They are conscious that while an eye for an eye appears three times in the Scriptures, the concept of mercy appears 3000 times.

Let me suggest ways you can resemble these people. See which one may work for you. Pray for the person who has wronged you. It is difficult to be unforgiving to others if you are praying for them. Consider establishing some contact with your antagonists. Perhaps a note, a phone call, or a smile may turn the situation around.

We should all consider very seriously the advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson. "You can never do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."

After all, as a writer has pointed out, love is the one thing we Christians are supposed to be good at.

Consider the story told in 1 Samuel. Saul had organized a posse to hunt David down and kill him. David along with his aid, Abishai, stumbled on Saul's camp at night. The king was in a deep sleep. Abishai offered to dispatch Saul with one sword stroke. Thus, all of David's troubles would be done with. His fugitive days would be done. Life would become sweet again. But David would have none of it. He would not have revenge. He knew the teaching that the person who plans revenge dig two graves. He said, "The Lord will repay everyone for his uprightness." As it was for David, so it should be for us.

Graham Greene may have had David in mind when he wrote that hatred is a failure of the imagination.

Think too of the conduct of Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter played Superman and took off the ear of the High Priest's servant. But Jesus would not play that game. He repuked Peter and restored the ear to the horrified servant. Or think of Him on Calvary. His mellow words come down the centuries, "Father, forgive them, for they know what they do."

Forgiving one's foe may not turn that enemy into one's best friend. But it certainly allows us to suspect that we are becoming authentic card-carrying followers of the Lord. Indeed, as one person attests, enemies are our best friends, for they allow us to transcend ourselves.

Perhaps in this Liturgy we should say once more with feeling, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." The Christ never meant those words to be spoken as glibly as we speak them.

The Jesus mandate rests on the ideal of the extra mile. And we know that road is never crowded.

Many of us says William Barclay comfort ourselves with the thought that I am as good as the person standing by me. We probably are. But that is not the Gospel point. The question we should be putting to ourselves is, "Should I not be better than the person who is next to me?" The Master would not have us compare ourselves with our neighbor but with Himself.

In New York City, there is a building that wears a plague that reads, "The only limits to our future are the ones we impose ourselves." Can we come to resemble our can-do Teacher in some fashion? You better believe it!

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
7 Ordinary Time
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: Making His Compassion Real

I want to begin today by telling you about Rocky Mallardi. It has been quite a while since Rocky Mallardi passed away, probably about twenty-four years or more. His wife, Mittie moved up to Tallahasee, and I believe she also has passed on. Rocky was a member of St. Ignatius for many years. He was the head usher at the 9:00 am children's Mass. I always found him happy and affable and extremely generous with his time to the parish. One Sunday Rocky came up to me and said that he wanted to apologize for his part in any bad feelings there may have been between us. I was shocked. I told him that I never felt any negativity coming his way and didn't mean to give him the impression that I was ever upset with him. He said to me, "Well, Father, I haven't always been the most supportive of you. And I think that it is really important that I apologize." I never saw Rocky like that before, and I realized that something was going on within him, so I just said, "Rocky, if there is anything you need to say your sorry for, I accept your apology," and I gave him a hug.

I later found out that for the two weeks before that, Rocky was seeking out anyone with whom he felt at odds and setting matters straight. It was not a matter of who was right or wrong. It was a matter of Christian charity and forgiveness. Mittie told me that the day after Rocky spoke to me, he went to his doctor for a full physical. He told the doctor that he felt his life was ending. The doctor told him that everything seemed fine. That night Rocky sat down in his recliner and passed away.

That Rocky somehow knew his death was coming is shocking. But even more amazing is the way he approached death. He was determined to die at peace with everyone in his life. Rocky is one of these stones here that is the foundation of St. Ignatius. He is also a man who took today's Gospel reading very seriously.

I think that of all the things the Lord asks us to do in our following Him, nothing is more difficult that the dictates of today's Gospel. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you." It is much easier to avoid sexual immorality than it is to avoid hatred, particularly when we have been hurt, but that is what Jesus is calling us to do. It is much easier to sacrifice our wants for the needs of others, then it is to avoid lashing out at someone who has attacked someone in our family, but that is what Jesus is calling us to do.

Hatred is destroying the world. Jesus came to give the world life. To follow Him demands that we fight off hatred in the world, beginning with that anger that is within us.

So your children or your parents, your exwife or ex husband, your boss or the people next door have made your lives difficult, even unpleasant. They have tormented you. We can all say that there are those people whose lives have made our lives difficult. And we think, life would be so much easier if they had never existed. More than that, the very thought of the person makes our blood boil. And this nemesis is the person we are called upon to forgive.

Is the Lord asking too much? Is he expecting too much of us? No, He is only telling us to be forgiving so we can receive forgiveness. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Jewish people are told to be sincere or perfect as their heavenly Father is sincere or perfect. In the Gospel of Luke, that we heard today, we are told to be compassionate as our Heavenly Father is Compassionate.

That word compassionate means to be concerned with human welfare and the alleviation of suffering by being charitable, sympathetic, and merciful. We all live under the mercy of God. We are all dependent on His care, His understanding. We are called to offer that care, that understanding in the most difficult circumstance, to offer compassion to those who have assaulted us in any way whatsoever. We are told: ""Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."

When the ladies of Jesus' time went to the market place they would have aprons on over their clothes. The last purchase they would make would usually be wheat or some other grain or possibly flour. One measure of flour would be poured into the ladies' outstretched aprons. Now, how much that measure really was would depend on the merchant. The best measure would be one where there was no more room for any more flour. The measure with which your measure will in return be measured to you means that if our forgiveness is limited, so also will be God's mercy. If our forgiveness is complete, so also will be God's mercy.

Rocky really had it right. He wanted to be forgiven by God for the sins of his life, so he went about finding those whom he had to forgive as well as those whom he owed an apology.

So who is it that you and I still hold a grudge over? And why is it that we are allowing God's mercy to be limited by our anger for another person? And why is it that we feel justified in adding our anger to the sum of hatred in the world? Does that mean that we are to forgive and forget? Forgive, yes, but sometimes it is neither reasonable nor prudent to forget. We may need to remember for the sake of protecting ourselves or others from those who commit crimes against us. But we still need to forgive. Remember the story of the Prodigal Son. When he returned home, the Forgiving Father welcomed him back into his love, but he didn't give him the farm. The Prodigal Son had squandered his half of the farm. Whatever was left still belonged to the elder brother. But, as the Forgiving Father told his faithful son, "All that I have is yours, but your brother who was lost has returned and we need to celebrate his presence in our family."

Our participation in the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God is dependent on our determination to put his love over our anger and our hatred no matter how justified we might feel. Anger and hatred only destroy, and they destroy the one who is angry, the one who hates. God does not want us to be miserable. He wants us to live and die in his love. We pray today for the courage to allow his forgiveness to transform the world.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
7 Ordinary Time

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
7 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
7 Ordinary Time
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are presented for consideration today one of the very hardest of Jesus' commands: "Love your enemies". This injunction comes in the very first sentence of today's text and the rest of the extract is could be regarded as simply a commentary on it.

What we are talking about is ethics, the moral principles which are at the very heart of the Christian life. And by presenting us with this extraordinary command Jesus is going far beyond anything that has been previously proposed as a value upon which we could base our lives.

In the Book of Exodus the People of Israel were given "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" as an ethical principle. Today we regard this system of proportional punishment as rather severe. But we have to look at this principle in its historical context and when we do so we see it as an important stage in the moral development of mankind. In its day it was real progress and actually a moderating principle because before this it was generally regarded as quite in order to take a life for an eye, a life for a tooth.

In a more primitive society it was regarded as permissible to take revenge often quite disproportionate to the original injury suffered. This led to vendettas lasting for generations, something which was highly destructive to society at large. The principle "an eye for an eye" was therefore brought in to introduce some form of equity into the situation and so stop people from aggravating the grievance and so effectively preventing unnecessary vendettas.

From this position society gradually progressed to a system of monetary compensation for injuries. Even today society generally works along the same lines with fines imposed for minor injuries and imprisonment for more serious cases going alongside a system of financial compensation for the victim carefully worked out by the courts taking into account the particular circumstances.

But those who choose the spiritual path realise that even this is an insufficient basis on which to live a righteous life and so there was a gradual progression to what is called the Golden Rule which is generally summarised as "treat others as you would like them to treat you". This provides a much more positive principle on which to base one's life, it isn't based on reacting to injuries but sets out to build a positive society. It is an altruistic approach to life and promotes the general well-being of everyone we come into contact with.

It is no surprise that we call it the Golden Rule because when you wholeheartedly adopt this way of doing things all kinds of good things start to happen. People start to become polite and gentle and much less suspicious of each other. The more people adopt this principle the more the world becomes a better place.

Jesus includes the Golden Rule in his teaching and indeed we find it inserted into the Sermon on the Plain and included in today's Gospel text. But Jesus actually goes one step further and takes his disciples far beyond the Golden Rule with a new teaching which is to love even our enemies. Yes, the Golden Rule is certainly part of loving your enemy, but there is much more to it such as "turning the other cheek", "giving your tunic as well as your cloak", "lending without hope of return" and so on.

The Golden Rule "treat others as you would like them to treat you" is based on what you would want others to do to you whereas "love your enemies" is based on the way God deals with us as exemplified in the life of Jesus himself.

I suppose it can all be summed up in the first sentence of the last paragraph: "Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate". Our task as disciples of Christ is to act in the same way as God acts which is to be compassionate to everyone even to our enemies.

The way God treats us is to be the ethic or guideline for our life as Christians. God is infinitely compassionate and merciful, he is extraordinarily patient with our many shortcomings and he puts up with all sorts of foolishness on our part. It is our task as a true disciple to imitate our master, to imitate the behaviour of God himself.

And what does God do besides showing us extraordinary compassion, mercy and patience? What he does is love us. And his love for us is so immense that he makes the greatest of all sacrifices for us by giving for our salvation the life of his own dear Son.

What we are talking about then in today's Gospel is not some ethical system for the good of society or for our own self-interest but something way beyond this. What Jesus gives us is the very principle behind the creation of the universe: God's infinite love for us all.

This is the extraordinary challenge that he lays before us: To love the people around us just as he loves us, just as he loves them. It is not easy and we won't achieve it often but we know that this is what God wants from us and it is something that deep in our hearts we are glad to do. We do not do this for any reward but solely out of love and yet Jesus tells us that the rewards are tremendous. Nevertheless, we don't regard these rewards as any kind of recompense for our efforts.

We know that simply living in harmony with the will of our creator is reward in itself, for with it comes the growing realisation of the tremendous amount that God is already doing for us.

Jesus sums this up in some of the most joyful and poetic words in the New Testament: "Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out will be the amount you get back."

Our response to God's love is, naturally enough, to praise and thank him. But the response that he wants from us, the response that is truly satisfying to him is to imitate his love in our relationships with all those around us. It is satisfying to God and it is satisfying to us.
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