7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

FR TONY'S HOMILYRCIA LESSONSFAITH FORMATION LESSONS
Martin Luther King Jr. House Bombing (2:23) On September 30, 1956, Martin Luther King Jr.’s house was bombed by segregationists in retaliation for the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

We Must Love Our Enemies

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. Here is one example. Visit Fr. Tony’s website for a whole lot more. 

Fr. Tony’s Eight Minute Homilies

On January 30, 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr. came home from a meeting to find his home had been bombed while his wife and children were inside. Crowds full of anger swarmed in the front yard. After a while, Dr. King came out to address the crowd. — This is what he said: “We are not advocating violence. We must love our enemies. What we are doing is just, and God will be with us.”

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Central Theme of the Readings

The readings today are linked together by one main theme: the power of Christian love, when exercised in unconditional forgiveness. The readings also instruct us about our right and wrong choices. The right choices lead us to God, and the wrong ones break our relationship with Him and with one another.


Scripture Readings Summarized

First Reading

The first reading shows us how David made the right choice, respecting God’s anointed king by forgiving his offenses, while Saul continued to make the wrong choices, perpetuating his own misery in seeking his revenge.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

This reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, gives us a vivid example of self-control, forgiveness, and mercy. The ancient Israelites were governed first by Moses, then by a long line of judges. Since they noticed the progress made by their Gentile neighbors who had kings, the Israelites finally prevailed on their last Judge, Samuel to ask God for a king for them. (1 Samuel: 8). The king was Saul. In Saul’s army, the youth David won a famous victory over Goliath, and thereby gained the admiration of the people and the envy of King Saul. Saul and his “three thousand picked men” went in search of David to kill him. Yet, David and Abishai were able to steal into Saul’s camp and stand over the sleeping king. But David turned down Abishai’s offer to “nail Saul to the ground with one thrust of the spear.” ”Do not harm him,” David commanded. Then taking Saul’s spear and water jug, he went to an opposite hill and yelled across to Abner, Saul’s lieutenant: “Here is the king’s spear…. Today, though Yahweh delivered him into my grasp, I would not harm Yahweh’s anointed.” David’s sense of justice, spirit of forgiveness, and respect for Divine authority helped him to go beyond the retaliation which others expected him to show. David is an image of Christ and an example to us. If he can forgive his mortal enemy, so can, and so should, we.


Responsorial Psalm

In the Responsorial Psalm, Ps 103, the Psalmist reminds us of the mercy of God and His compassion which we should practice in our choices.


Second Reading

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how the “First Adam” made a wrong choice of disobedience, bringing death into the world, whereas Jesus, the “Second Adam,” made the right choice of fulfilling his Father’s saving plan for mankind by accepting acute suffering and heinous death.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

Here we have Saint Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus, contrasting Christ, “the last Adam,” with Adam, the “first Adam.” He reminds the Corinthian community that everyone shares in the sinful nature of the “first Adam.” But he encourages his followers to remember that by Baptism they also share in the spiritual nature of Jesus — the “last Adam.” Hence, we Christians are expected to go beyond our earthly, natural desire to seek revenge and retaliation. Instead, when we are injured, we are to offer the Christian response of forgiveness and mercy, whether our culture accepts or rejects it. If, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we do so, we share in the life of the risen Christ, both here and now, and after our death.


Gospel

Today’s Gospel (Luke 6:27-38) gives us Jesus’ revolutionary moral teaching about correct choices in our human relationships, based on the necessity of our following the “Golden Rule” and our obligation to behave like the children of a loving, forgiving, merciful, and compassionate Heavenly Father. Our relationships in our communities become truly Christian when we follow the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus amplifies the golden rule by giving additional commands for us to follow as God’s children, by explaining Christian love: “Love your enemiesDo good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.” Jesus orders us to love our enemies and to be merciful and compassionate to everyone as God our Father is loving, merciful, and compassionate. He concludes by instructing us to stop judging others and start forgiving all who offend us.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

The Gospel passage contains four commands of Jesus: love, forgive, do good, and pray. They specify the kind of love that the Christian follower is expected to show toward an enemy. The ‘enemy’ is one who injures hates or rejects the Christian.

1) Love your enemies:

This command proposes a course of action that is contrary to human nature. Jesus invites those who follow him to repudiate their natural inclinations and instead follow his example and the example of the heavenly Father. He recommends, not merely a warm affection (philia), such as one might have for one’s family, or a passionate devotion (eros), such as one might expect between spouses, but a gracious, active interest (agape), in the welfare of precisely those persons who are antagonistic to us. Agape is the love that cares deeply for others simply because they are created in God’s image, and wishes them well because that is what God wishes. Jesus not only commanded us to love our enemies, he also gave us the most vivid and awesome example of this type of love in action. While hanging on the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”


2) Offer your other cheek to the one who strikes you.

This injunction and that in v. 30, cut through the old principle of retaliation (Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20; Dt 19:21-30). Jesus is not saying that we should permit the destruction of the innocent and defenseless or allow ourselves to be abused or killed!

The Catechism is very clear on this point:

“Self-defense is morally legitimate, as long as it’s proportional to the attack. Let us remember that the commandment is ‘Love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF’…Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life” (CCC #2264).

What are the challenges Jesus gives us in this command to “turn the other cheek”?

  • First, he challenges us to forgive others totally and completely, which means letting go of any and every grudge.
  • He also challenges us not to seek vengeance.
  • In addition, he wants us to be patient with the shortcomings of others and to love everyone, even our enemies. (CCC #2264).

So the bottom line is this: It’s morally wrong not to defend the innocent, when we have a responsibility to do so; it’s morally legitimate to defend ourselves from an unjust aggressor; but it can be virtuous to endure unjust sufferings and even martyrdom for the sake of Jesus Christ and his Gospel.


3) “Forgive and you will be forgiven. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you”

This message might have sounded very strange to the Jews, who were familiar with a God who was merciful to his own people and vengeful against their enemies, as pictured in Psalms 18, 72 and 92. But Jesus repeats his teaching on forgiveness, both in the prayer he taught his disciples “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” (Mt 68:12; Lk 11:4), and in his final commandment to his apostles, “Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another” (Jn 15:12). Another good reason for us to forgive our enemies is, “(so that everyone will know that we are disciples of the Most High” (Jn 13:34-35). That is, Christian forgiveness can be a form of evangelization. Jesus does not advise his followers to overlook evils, wars, economic disparity, and exploitation of the vulnerable. Instead, we are called to forgive, to be merciful and not to retaliate. But we cannot achieve this level of love and forgiveness by ourselves. We need the power of God working through us by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.


4) The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Christian ethics consists not in merely refraining from evil, but in actively doing good, not only to those who are friends, but to those who hate us or do evil against us. In other words, Jesus expects us to rise above our human instincts and imitate the goodness and generosity of God. The observance of the golden rule makes us like God whose love and mercy embrace saints and sinners alike. At the same time the Golden Rule does not require that we allow others to take advantage of us.

Life messages

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1) We need to practice the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule asks us to do to others what we would like them do to us. If we obey, loving others and expressing that love by loving words and deeds, we will start receiving the same love from others in higher intensity. Further, if we want others to forgive our offenses, our words of criticism, and our thoughtless judgments against them, then we should start forgiving their offenses against us and start appreciating their good qualities while encouraging them and supporting them in their needs.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

2) Invitation to grace-filled behavior

Invitation to grace-filled behavior: What makes Christianity distinct from any other religion is the quality known as grace, i.e., God’s own life working in us, so that we are able to treat others, not as they deserve but with love, kindness and mercy. God is good to the unjust as well as to the just. Hence our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. When we pray for those who do us wrong, we break the power of hate in ourselves and in others and release the power of love. How can we possibly love those who cause us harm? God gives the necessary power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers our hurts, fears, prejudices and grief. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment, and give us the courage to return good for evil.


3) Accept the challenges of day-to-day life

Jesus challenges our willingness to endure unjust suffering for his sake and the sake of his Gospel. For example, we must often endure the suffering that comes when a co-worker calls us “a religious fanatic” because we believe in the Ten Commandments; the pain that comes when family members refuse to associate with us because we take our Faith seriously and refuse to compromise our beliefs; the suffering that comes to a practicing Christian youth who is ostracized by his friends because he won’t do drugs or engage in promiscuous sexual activity. These are examples of the “little martyrdoms” that Jesus challenges us to embrace every day in his name! (CCC # 2264)


4) Pray for the strength to forgive

At every Mass we pray the “Our Father,” asking God to forgive us as we forgive others. Our challenge is to overcome our natural inclination to hate. To meet that challenge we need to ask God for the strength to forgive each other. Each of us needs to ask: Do I have anyone in my life I call an enemy? Is there anyone who actually hates me? Are there people who would really curse me? Is there anyone in my life who mistreats me-–a boss, a teacher, a parent, a co-worker, a family member, a former spouse? These things hurt us, and they are often difficult to forgive. However, we must forgive, because only forgiveness truly heals us. If we remember how God has forgiven us, it will help us forgive others. For those who have hurt us, Jesus tells us our response should be love: “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Let us start forgiving right now by curbing the sharp tongue of criticism, suppressing the revenge instinct, and patiently bearing the irritating behavior of a neighbor.

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 

CHOOSE ONE

1: “Forgive Your Enemies” The preacher’s Sunday sermon was, “Forgive Your Enemies.” He asked, “How many have forgiven their enemies?” About half held up their hands. He then repeated the question. This time about eighty percent held up their hands. He then repeated his question a third time. The entire congregation held up their hands except one elderly lady. “Mrs. Jones,” the preacher asked, “aren’t you willing to forgive your enemies?” “I don’t have any” she replied. “That is very unusual”, the preacher said. “How old are you?” “Ninety-three.” “Mrs. Jones, please come to the front and tell the congregation how a person cannot have an enemy in the world.” The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle and said: “It’s easy; I just outlived all those rascals!”


2: The preacher and the doctor:There’s a story told of a husband and wife both of whom were doctors – one a Doctor of Theology and the other a Doctor of Medicine. When their doorbell was rung and the maid answered, the inquirer would often ask for “the doctor”. The maid’s interesting reply was: “Do you want the one who preaches or the one who practices?”


3: Irish prayer: There is an old Irish prayer that goes like this, “May God bless those who love us. And those who do not love us, may He turn their hearts. And if He does not turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we may know them by their limping.”

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week.

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