Christ as Savior, El Greco, c1600
Gospel (Matthew 5:38-38, New American Bible version)
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 as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I’ve highlighted below what I find one of the most helpful explanations of the last line of the gospel.
Jesus set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers he has created are lovely. The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realized that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wildflowers to make the meadows gay.
It is just the same in the world of souls - which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but he has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice his eyes whenever he glances down. Perfection consists in doing his will, in being that which he wants us to be.
Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be - and becoming that person.
- St Thérèse of Lisieux, from Story of a Soul
St Thérèse of Lisieux in July 1896
St Thérèse’s understanding of perfection is organic. It’s like a flower or plant that is continually growing until it reaches maturity. Each flower, plant or tree is unique. I used to have a ‘blueprint’ understanding of perfection such as when the builder follows the plan of the architect to the letter the resulting building is perfect. But a building isn’t alive. A living organism is. Even though our bodies begin to decline at a certain point, God’s desire for us is that we keep growing more and more according to his will in our inner selves. Pope John Paul II spoke to us in one way when he was elected at the relatively young age of 58, a man who skied and who spoke powerfully. He spoke to us in a very different and more powerful way when, six days before he died, he couldn’t speak at all as he stood mute at his window, the microphone in front of him. In the 26 years in between – it has just struck me as I write that he was pope for two years longer than St Thérèse lived – he continued to grow into perfection n the living sense that St Thérèse gives us.
Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II, as a priest in Niegowić, Poland, 1948
“BE HOLY, FOR I, THE LORD, YOUR GOD, AM HOLY”
Biblical Reflection for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
I have highlighted parts of the text below.
By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
TORONTO, FEB. 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Scripture readings for today issue three calls to us– to be holy as the Lord our God is holy; to not deceive ourselves with the wisdom of this age; and to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Let us begin our reflections this week by considering the words of the Leviticus reading (19:1-2, 17-18.)
God is the Holy One and the Creator of human life, and the human being is blessed and obliged by God’'s utter holiness. Therefore every human life is holy, sacrosanct and inviolable. According to Leviticus 19:2 God’s holiness constitutes an essential imperative for the moral behavior: "You shall be holy for I am Holy, the Lord your God!" This loaded statement describes best the vocation of every man and woman, and the entire mission of the Church throughout history: a call to holiness.
You shall be holy
Holiness is a truth that pervades the whole of the Old Covenant: God is holy and calls all to holiness. The Mosaic Law exhorted: "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." Holiness is in God, and only from God can it pass to the crown of God’s creation: human beings. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and God’s holiness, his ‘total otherness’ is imprinted on each one of us. Human beings become vehicles and instruments of God’s holiness for the world.
This holiness is the fire of God's Word that must be alive and burning within our hearts. It is this fire, this dynamism, that will burn away the evil within us and around us and cause holiness to burst forth, healing and transforming the society and culture surrounding us. Evil is only eradicated by holiness, not by harshness. Holiness introduces into society a seed that heals and transforms.
Holiness is a way of life that involves commitment and activity. It is not a passive endeavor, but rather a continuous choice to deepen one's relationship with God and to then allow this relationship to guide all of one's actions in the world. Holiness requires a radical change in mindset and attitude. The acceptance of the call to holiness places God as our final goal in every aspect of our lives. This fundamental orientation toward God even envelops and sustains our relationship with other human beings. Sustained by a life of virtue and fortified by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, God draws us ever closer to himself and to that day when we shall see Him face to face in heaven and achieve full union with him.
Here and now, we can find holiness in our personal experience of putting forth our best efforts in the work place, patiently raising our children, and building good relationships at home, at school and at work. If we make all of these things a part of our loving response to God, we are on the path of holiness.
Full text here.