Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), February 23, 2014 – Lev 19, 1-2. 17-17; 1 Cor 3, 16-23; Mt 5, 38-48
Let him become a fool so as to be wise (1 Cor 3, 18)
We can belong to Christ and his kingdom only if we prefer divine folly
to human wisdom and remember always and fondly the fool who died for sinners.
What is normal is to treat the neighbor as he treats us. Does he love us? So, we love him. We hate him if he hates us. What is righteous: an eye for an eye. What is unrighteous: two eyes for an eye or one eye for two eyes.
But the righteousness that Jesus lived and taught is based in divine superabundance, not in human equivalence. It demands that we go beyond “I give you so may give me” (Pope Francis) and be perfect like our Father who “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”
This non-meritocratic superabundance, along with the Master who teaches it with authority, astonishes us. But astonishment does not translate automatically into acceptance without reservation. We harbor doubts that do not stay hidden.
Our resistance to the call to perfection is noticeable in the excuse, “I am just a human being.”
We distinguish between deserving and undeserving poor. Perhaps we even support a politician more than we support applicants for general assistance, for whom a politician is proposing a law that will require them to take a drug test first.
It must be admitted that many make huge donation from their surplus wealth. But it must be acknowledged also that there are not a few of us who find imitating the poor widow, who gave all she has to live on, quite impossible.
Perhaps we gladly give food the hungry, but do we go the extra mile by recognizing their dignity—as St. Vincent de Paul did with his “white tablecloth”— or by promoting systemic change? The good Samaritan did not just provide first aid; he saw to the full recovery of the half-dead, a stranger and perhaps an enemy.
And we have today’s Lamechs, who wish death to one who wounds them and seek seven-fold vengeance—not to mention “just” wars that compound rather than solve problems.
Faustus of Riez spoke of the Old Testament being diluted into letter. If we water down the wine at the wedding at Cana, then our continuity with the law and the prophets does not consist so much in Jesus affirming them as in our returning to the old ministry of the deadly letter, not of the vivifying Spirit.
Better than this continuity is rupture. Let the foolishness of the Christian ideal be tried, so that it may no longer be said: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” (G.K. Chesterton). May we see Christian wisdom in what appears foolish to human eyes (Coste XI, 131). Let us not be ashamed of our celebration of Jesus’ death until he comes, even when hedonists make fun of us.
Ross Reyes Dizon