Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017
in Ordinary Time
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
A grieving mother, speaking to the press after her son was charged with a deadly act of terrorism, is incredulous. "I don't know where this came from. We have a loving home. Our family always has been respectful and caring," she says. "Why would he do this? That's not who we are!"
We hear that phrase often lately. For instance, congressional leaders condemning torture as a means of getting information from enemies note, "That's not who we are!" An official of a city that had been making progress in race relations laments a hate crime, "That's not who we are!"
Their point is that our family, our country, our community is not one that lives by the power of subjugation and violence. It's not in our makeup. As a people, we renounce such conduct.
This weekend's Scriptures, in both the Old Testament and Matthew's Gospel, exhort God's people to take no revenge on those who hurt them and, in fact, to love their enemies.
According to Leviticus, God tells Moses to instruct his people thusly, "Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge." Why? God explains simply, "Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy."
In other words, don't be a vengeful people, because that's not who we are!
Jesus encourages his disciples in the same way, if I may paraphrase: You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you offer no resistance to the one who is evil -- because that's not who we are!
This is one of the most difficult teachings to follow. It's human nature to strike back when someone harms or threatens us. More than once have I convinced myself that even if two wrongs don't make a right at least it'll make me feel better. But it doesn't. It just incurs more sin.
These Scriptures emphasize that being the people of God is not about seeking reward for our actions. It's more fundamental than that: It's about our actions growing out of who we are.
Call it integrity; call it honor. God calls it being holy.
This column is offered in cooperation with The North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.