Commending Ourselves Always as Ministers of God, Eleventh Monday (I), June 15, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, New York, NY
Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
June 15, 2015
2 Cor 6:1-10, Ps 98, Mt 5:38-42


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we’re one week into our annual 17 day meditation on Jesus’ words to us in the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus gives us an image of how he lives and how we’re supposed to live as his disciples. He explicitly calls us to live not by the standards of the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, not by the standards of the pagans who love those who love them, but by Jesus’ own standards, encouraging us to make his words and his standards the rock on which we build our life.
  • Today we enter into the heart of the contrast between Jesus’ standards and those of the pagans, the Scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus talks about the Law of Talion, which antedates the Old Testament, but was included in the law of Moses, which sought to limit vengeance by saying, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But merely limiting retaliation wasn’t enough for Jesus and his commandment and practice of life. He wanted us to stand up for our dignity while, as he would say later, loving even those who are making themselves our enemies. To turn the other cheek as someone was seeking to backhand us was not principally to be beaten on the other cheek with a forehand but to stand for one’s dignity not to be slapped by preventing one from backhanding us again. It was a means to prevent our being eaten away by resentment by affirming that we’re not resisting but we’re also not giving the other person an opportunity to offend our dignity and his own. Jesus would build on this in the other examples he gives. If someone wants to have our tunic, he tells us to give our cloak, and if he wants us to be pressed into service to deliver something for one mile, that we should go for two. The lesson in all of the examples is the same. It’s the lesson Jesus himself taught in his Good Shepherd Discourse: “No one takes my life from me. I freely lay it down” (Jn 10:18). Rather than being victimized, we willingly participate with love. These are Jesus’ standards, to give to the one who asks rather than worrying about the quid pro quo, not to turn our back to someone in need no matter how many times others — or even that person — have turned backs on us. This is the way our righteousness will surpass the scribes and pharisees. This is the way we will love not only those who love us but love like Jesus.
  • St. Paul is someone who loved by these standards and in the first reading he calls the Corinthians and us urgently to let our lives be transformed by them as well. He reminds us that God gives us his grace today — that today is the acceptable time and the day of salvation — and prays that we will not waste that grace. These worldly hardships and annoyances Jesus describes in the Sermon are all graces to sculpt us more and more in his divine image. St. Paul himself suffered all of the indignities to which Jesus alludes and more, yet “in everything,” he said, “we commend ourselves as ministers of God.” He responds always as a minister of the grace, love and mercy of God. He does so through “endurance, in afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts,” all of which he suffered. He does so with “purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech, in the power of God,  with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left.” He does do both in “glory and dishonor, insult and praise.” No matter what happens he seeks to show himself a minister of God. And he describes that when he’s treated as a deceiver, he doesn’t descend to that level but remains truthful; when Christians treat him as unrecognized, he knows he’s acknowledged by God; when he seeks to live as dead, he knows he’s alive by faith in Christ; when he’s made a messenger of sorrow, he shows he rejoices in suffering; when people respond that he’s poor having to work as a tent maker, he focuses on the riches he has received and distributes for the Lord. He shows that even though in the eyes of the world he has nothing, he shows that he possesses all things. Today is the day for us to begin to choose like him.
  • The great grace we have to do so we receive each morning. Jesus himself was slapped on one cheek in the Coronation by Pilates’ soldiers, but he didn’t fight back. When they played dice for his tunic, he gave them also his underwear and his body and blood. When they pressed him to walk the Way of the Cross, he did so until the end. He gave himself to all of us who were asking for his salvation and has never turned his back on us. Entering into communion with him here, like St. Paul did, is the means by which we will be able to live by the challenging standards he announces to us in the Sermon on the Mount. Today is the day for us to receive that help, turn our cheeks and faces toward him, and seek in everything to commend ourselves as the ministers of the one who freely laid down his life in love so that we could freely lay down ours with his.


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 2 COR 6:1-10

Brothers and sisters:
As your fellow workers, we appeal to you
not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.
We cause no one to stumble in anything,
in order that no fault may be found with our ministry;
on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves
as ministers of God, through much endurance,
in afflictions, hardships, constraints,
beatings, imprisonments, riots,
labors, vigils, fasts;
by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness,
in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech,
in the power of God;
with weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left;
through glory and dishonor, insult and praise.
We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1, 2B, 3AB, 3CD-4

R. (2a) The Lord has made known his salvation.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
In the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.

Alleluia PS 119:105

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A lamp to my feet is your word,
a light to my path.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:38-42

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 to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”


Vatican Museum