Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 19, 2023
Sometimes the hardest Gospel texts to hear and live are the simplest. Today, our selection from the Gospel of Matthew contains such passages. Jesus, still preaching the “Sermon on the Mount,” acts in the role of a “new Moses”–a new kind of lawgiver. He builds on the commandments of old, but commands us to go deeper. Rather than retaliating for evil done to us we are to offer no resistance, hand over our possessions, go the extra mile. Instead of hating our enemies we’re to love them. We are to pray for our persecutors. In short, we’re commanded to practice a perfection which imitates the perfection of the Father in heaven.
In one of his movies, filmmaker Woody Allen portrays an egotistical writer whose friend accuses him of trying to be like God. “Well,” says Woody’s character, “I have to model my life on somebody!” Allen’s humor has always struck me as an unintended commentary on the Christian life. Far from being an exercise in arrogance, striving to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” is our way to salvation.
Without the graces we are offered in Jesus Christ, of course, that task is impossible. But if we respond to the challenging commands of the Lord in today’s Gospel, we are certainly assured of God’s help to live them out.