22nd / 23rd February 2020

posted 24 Feb 2020, 04:34 by Parish Office

Homily for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (22 & 23/2/20)


Last week we were told that if our virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and the Pharisees, we will never get into the kingdom of heaven.  This time we are told that our love for others has to be much higher than that of tax collectors and pagans.  “Love your enemies … pray for those who persecute you”.


There is the saying that we hate the sin, but love the sinner.  It’s a mid-way between two extremes:  the extreme on the one hand of hate the sin, hate the sinner, and the other extreme of love the sinner and love the sin.  The correct balance is that we hate the sin, but love the sinner.  It means that there is such a thing as legitimate anger.  It is right to be angry against wrongdoing, injustice, sin and so on.  It would be wrong not to be, and just to accept it all as “it’s just the way things are today”.  At the time of the rise of Adolf Hitler, there were various priests and bishops that spoke out against the regime and were sent away to various camps, including Auschwitz.  Not all of them returned.  But it’s said that when some of them did return after the end of the War, they weren’t always greeted enthusiastically by the people.  The people felt embarrassed that they had simply gone along with the regime and kept their heads down, rather than challenge and speak out about what was happening.


We are allowed to challenge injustice, to defend ourselves, and to defend others in our charge.  If everyone’s right to life is to be respected, then that includes our own, and we can defend ourselves, using legitimate and proportionate defence.  If a salesman comes into our house and we don’t like the prices he offers, we can tell him to leave.  But what we can’t do is without warning pull out a gun and shoot him.


One of the problems with the issue of anger is that it can so easily boil over.  Hatred of wrong can lead then to hatred of the person, and that’s the point when it becomes sinful.  It’s so easily done.  Vengeance can then lead to more vengeance, tit for tat.  Things escalate and get out of control.  People keep on wanting to try to get their own back.  We are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Love is different to liking someone.  We may not like the people that broke into our neighbour’s shed.  We certainly don’t like what they did.  But we are called to pray for them that they begin to realise the damage their actions cause and have a change of heart.


People can sometimes get disheartened about the way things are today; others may have never known things to be any different.  But, the greater the darkness, the greater the effect of the light.  A kind word or gesture can make such a difference, and help to restore some people’s faith in humanity.  There are still some good people around.  If sin leads people to put up the barriers against others and be closed in on themselves, gestures of goodness and kindness can open them up again.  It doesn’t have to cost anything.  A good word, a bit of encouragement, a kind deed, an offer to help – without expecting repayment – all these things are small ways of building up the kingdom of God.


But now comes the crunch:  “if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? … And if you save your greeting for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?”  The love we show others as Christians has to go further.  It’s one thing helping out the nice old lady down the road with the odd bit of gardening, especially when she rewards you with a nice cup of tea and a few cakes afterwards, and is such pleasant company to talk to.  But what about if she wasn’t so appreciative?  Or a bit of a complainer?  Or something worse?  “For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? … And if you save your greeting for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? … You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  That is something that we can’t do by ourselves.  We run out of steam.  At times, it might require the patience of a saint, and we are called to be living saints.  Not like some sort of unreal, plaster-cast saints, but real flesh and blood saints who live in the real world but are also in contact with heaven as well.  People who don’t just love our neighbour in the same measure that we love ourselves, but people who love our neighbour with the very love of God, people who love others in the same way that Christ loves us.  And that sort of love can only come from Christ.


Our Lord never said that it would be easy to follow Him.  He did say, “Take up your cross and follow me”.  But with Him, the burden is made light.  Let us also entrust ourselves to the prayers of Our Lady.  She is a real saint who knows all our needs and the complexities of our lives.  Sometimes we need difficulties to help ourselves realise that we can’t do things just by ourselves – we need the help of God, and the prayers of Our Lady, because we are called to be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect.