Set our goal higher

by Paul Yeung

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses,“Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the temple of God,and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses,and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,Paul or Apollos or Cephas,or the world or life or death,or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

Matthew 5:38-48

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.”

This week, let us continue to learn from Jesus the teaching of the Beatitudes.

In the gospel readings of this past and this upcoming Sundays, Jesus raises the bar of six traditional moral standards of old, with the last one being the “harshest”--Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you! Who can do that? Jesus sets the bar high with all these demands not because He wants to be harsh or unreasonable. He understands very well that our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. But because of His immense love for us, He disciplines us so that we can be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect.

Deep in our hearts, have we ever pondered the implications of us being God's temple, that God's Spirit dwells in us? If we are to keep ourselves worthy of the Spirit, not only do we need to keep holy this temple of God, but we also need to respect others as being God's temple as well, regardless of whether they are our friends or our enemies. Just as Jesus is merciful to the good and the bad by offering Himself completely and freely to all people, we are called to imitate Him on our journey to holiness.

Yet we know we cannot attain this by ourselves. We need to draw strength from Christ's merciful heart, from His Word, from the sacraments and God's special graces. Recognizing our own weaknesses, let us push ourselves a bit further by aiming higher so that even if we miss our target, we know that we are en route to holiness.