Acting by Jesus’ Standards, 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C), February 22, 2004

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Francis Xavier Church, Hyannis, MA
Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
February 22, 2004
1Sam26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23; 1Cor15:45-59; Lk6:27-38

1) Today Jesus continues the very clear and challenging homily he began seven days ago. Last week, he stressed how different the path that leads to true happiness, to holiness, to heaven is from what men and women normally believe. Whereas the world says you have to be rich to be happy, to be the life of the party, to fulfill every earthly desire and appetite and to be spoken well of by everyone, Jesus says, rather, blessed are the poor, blessed are those who hunger for things beyond their earthly appetites, who weep out of concern for others and for one’s sins, who are persecuted and reviled on account of their faith.” The Lord presented us a fork in the road between the “wide path” the world says will lead to beatitude and the narrow, uphill way that he himself indicated and he himself trod. The one who himself was so poor that he didn’t have a pillow on which to lay his head, who wept over Jerusalem and her repeated rejection of God’s offer of love, who fasted for 40 days living off of “every word that fell from the mouth of God” and who was persecuted and maltreated until death, heads up the narrow path and turns to us and says “follow me!” Today Jesus continues to point us to the way that leads to life with him and away from the populated path presented by the world. Each of us is called to choose the path we’re going to take.

2) Everything Jesus says in today’s Gospel is a commentary on the “new commandment” Jesus gave us during the celebration of the first Eucharist in the Upper Room, which we sang in the Gospel antiphon: “love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus, who loved his enemies enough to die for them, who turned the other cheek while people beat and scourged him, who didn’t withhold even his tunic from those who were stripping him, tells us to do the SAME. He calls us to love as he did, to love those who don’t love us, to give to those who don’t give to us, to bless those who curse us. He calls us to make the first move, in doing to others what we would want them to do to us, regardless of any consideration of what they in fact do do to us or fail to do to us. The standard to which he calls us is to do to them not what they HAVE DONE to us, but as we would WANT them to do to us. “If you love those who love you… if you’re good to those who are good to you, … if you give to those who give to you,” Jesus says, “What credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.” Jesus says that the human notion of “justice,” of “quid pro quo,” or human reciprocity, is not enough. We’re called to set the standard of love in all our actions, even the most challenging.

3) But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He says that we’re called to set the standard by which we want GOD to treat us: “The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you.” If we’re merciful to others, God will be merciful to us. If we forgive, we’ll be forgiven. If we’re generous with others, God will be generous with us. Jesus says that there should be, and will be, a correspondence between our actions and God’s. Jesus indicated for us the path and didn’t merely say, “Do as I say,” but “follow me!” As St. Peter wrote so powerfully to the first Christians, “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” He calls our actions to correspond to his. But then he says that the Father, who acted first out of love in sending us Jesus from heaven to show us the only path back to heaven, to give us the choice to live in love or not to, to live by God’s standards or by man’s. The Lord Jesus reminds us that the Father will treat us by the standard we adopt.

4) The Season of Lent which begins this Wednesday is a tremendous gift on God’s part for us to examine our consciences about the path we follow. Jesus calls us not to compare ourselves to others in the world, but to compare ourselves to Him, and, with the help he always provides, to model our lives on the way shown by Him. This is a very high standard. We have to be honest: each of us has fallen short of it and each of us will stumble along the way again. But this week and the season of Lent which is about to begin is a time for us to take Jesus’ standards more seriously, not to try to water them down as so many do, and to realize that Jesus doesn’t call us to anything that’s impossible if we rely on his help. Jesus says to us again, to love one another as I have loved you. If we live by this standard, others will see Jesus in us and come to the salvation and the joy he died to give us.