YEAR A: HOMILY FOR 7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Homily Theme: HOW CAN WE BE HOLY?
By: Rev. Fr. Jacob Aondover ATSU
READINGS: LEVITICUS 19:1-2,17-18, 1CORINTHIANS 3:16-23, MATTHEW 5:38-48
Jesus continues his teaching on the ‘New Order’, the ‘New Way’, the ‘Way of Christ’, the ‘Christian Way’. And today he bares his mind completely about his expectations from his followers. He gives us the most challenging yet doable task that we “be holy as our heavenly Father is holy” (Matt. 5:48); a task that is age old, for God himself commanded his chosen ones in Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy”. How on earth could God demand that we be perfect like he is; what made him think it is possible for us to be holy given his holiness? Was Christ merely stating ideals to be followed by his followers? Beloved in Christ, God meant every word of his when he called on his people to be holy like he is. Likewise, Jesus was not mincing words when he exhorted us to be holy as our heavenly Father is holy.
Given man’s frailty, given his concupiscence as occasioned by the original sin, given his susceptibility to sin; how possible is it for him to be holy (like his heavenly Father). God made man in his image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), he made him good and great too and setting him apart from the other creatures, God expects that at least man struggles to emulate him. Besides, God chose Israel as something holy unto himself (Jer. 2:3) and we being the new Israel ought to be holy always. For St. Paul, we must realize that we are the temple of the Lord and his spirit dwells in us, this temple is holy and we are that temple (1Cor.3:16-17). God sees us as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and his very own possession (1Pet.2:9). He therefore demands nothing less than holiness from us.
Holiness is an inside job. It springs from the innermost part of the temple of God, our hearts. It entails living the life of the one who fashioned us and living his life demands that we love him and our neighbours. In Nigeria for instance, being holy would mean; having goodwill, staying off corruption and embezzlement; vouching for the common good of all, etc. Holiness would imply having an unconditional love for friend and foe. Little wonder our first reading reminds us: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbour lest you bear sin because of him” (Lev. 19:17). Hate is a sin against love hence a sin against God for God himself is love as 1John 4:8 says. Hate corrupts the mind and defiles God’s temple thereby making us unholy.
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Moreover, the call to holiness demands we avoid all forms of vengeance (zero tolerance for the ‘eye for eye and tooth for tooth’ syndrome) and bearing grudges against others. Rather, it calls us to love others as we do ourselves (Matt. 22:39). It calls us not to render evil for evil but contrariwise, blessing (1Pet.3:9). Dearly beloved in Christ, the call to holiness tasks us never to resist our enemies but show them love; it tasks us to be more than those who are of the world. It reminds us that God does not select those on whom his rains fall and we should do likewise. It challenges us to be like God who wouldn’t hate the sinner but love him even as he hates the sin the sinner commits. We are called to be like God by living as he would want us to live, living in love.
May God’s grace accompany us as we struggle to lead lives worthy of our call, lives that are pleasing to God – holy lives. Amen.
BE HOLY, FEED AND EDUCATE ONE.
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