Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time - Scripture Soundings
First Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48
We can no longer blithely summarize the Old Testament as a testament of justice and the New Testament as a testament of love, for the first reading tells us otherwise. Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament, mainly consists of regulations for the priestly tribe of Levi.
Here we are reminded of the obligation to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This reading only gives us the introduction to a series of commands that closely resemble the ten commandments but exceed them in extraordinary ways--in ways, as a matter of fact, that are closer to the words of Jesus than to the original Ten Commandments.
Which brings us to the Gospel. Jesus surely was a student of the Scriptures, and he most certainly carried forth the generous, socially aware spirit we find in Leviticus 19. Interestingly, the Gospel of Matthew has Jesus quoting the more primitive laws that once guided Israel. Perhaps these more primitive laws were revived by those who wished to taunt the Jewish converts of whom Matthew's Gospel is so aware.
Jesus' words today continue to contrast the Jewish Law and practice and the practice of the followers of Jesus. Today's Gospel continues with slight variations the formulation: "You have heard ..." and "What I say to you is ..." The old laws of retaliation were once created to soften the severe and vengeful retaliations common among the peoples that surrounded the struggling people of God.
The would-be followers of Jesus again feel surrounded by people bent on retaliation. So Matthew presents Jesus, who asks his followers not only not to retaliate at all but to "turn the other cheek."
He asks that his listeners give the one who asks more than he or she seeks. Jesus asks us to love and pray for those of our home country and the alien, for the one who loves us and the one who hates us.
Jesus does not ask us to be heroic; he just asks us to be true children of God, who bestows the blessings of sun and rain on everyone without judgment. This is a reading we find difficult to take literally.
Well, then, let's consider its opposite: Let's consider a world in which we get mad and get even. Let's consider a world in which the ones with shirts and tunics in abundance leave the others shivering in the cold.
Let's consider a world in which we ask "How much do the poor need, anyway?" rather than, "How much do the rich need?" or, "How much is enough?" Let us consider a world in which no one walks any road with any one, unless there is something in it for them. Let us consider a world of precise measurement and strict justice. What then?
Copyright © 2004 World Library Publications
All rights reserved.
Updated: May 11, 2008