7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME HOMILY (YEAR A)
Homily Theme: HOLINESS: GREATEST BEAUTY
Fr. Gerald M. Musa
To many people, the word Holy sounds ancient and reserved for people who are completely out of the world or for those who are out of sync with real life. Long time ago, the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the whole community and tell them: “Be holy, for I the Lord your God is holy” (Leviticus 19:1-2).
Does this instruction mean anything to us today? We are certainly more obsessed about how to enhance our physical beauty. It is not a bad thing to beautify the body, but not at the detriment of beautifying the inner self.
In fact, Holiness entails a holistic care of our physical and spiritual beauty. Spiritual beauty is taking care of the depth of our being, taking care of the soul, taking care of the life within us. Holiness is letting the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us” (Psalm 90:17).
Moreover, the King (the Lord) desires that beauty (Psalm 45:11) and thou shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord (Isaiah 62:3). Is holiness reserved only for the ancient saints and biblical figures? We hardly associate holiness with ourselves because of the inner feeling in us, which says: “Who am I to be holy?”
St. Paul provides a reason for holiness: “Do you not know you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you. God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). The Apostle Paul compares the human person with the temple because the temple is not just an ordinary structure, but also a beautiful and magnificent one. The temple is the house of God (2 Chronicles 3:1) and equivalent to the Christian Basilica, Cathedral or Church. In other words the Apostle Paul says the human person is that beautiful and magnificent temple in which God dwells.
In summary, the book of Leviticus further explains the real meaning of holiness: “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart…Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17-18). In line with the invitation to holiness, Jesus instructs his disciples to be perfect, just as the heavenly Father is perfect.
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Can we really attain perfection with all our human weaknesses? Perfection is a goal of life, which we seek to achieve. To be perfect is to score 100%, which is a rare achievement. Difficult as it is to score 100%, diligent students work hard and make effort to score the highest mark. Jesus expects such determination from his followers as he expects his disciples not to have a mediocre attitude that aims for 40% or 50% but to be positively ambitions for the best, which is 100%.
Jesus further explains that the things, which destroy perfection and inner beauty, are resentment, anger, hatred, animosity and violence and so He instructs his disciples to love their enemies. As if this was not hard enough, Jesus adds: “Offer no resistance to one who is evil. If someone strikes you on your right cheek offer the other as well” (Matthew 5:39).
This biblical verse has been subject to all kinds of controversy and interpretations. It is clear that Jesus strongly condemns what the world calls “sweet revenge” because it perpetuates the vicious cycle of violence. Holiness is not without constant struggle.
I love the story of the elderly American Indian chief who says to the young people that the inner struggle inside us are like two dogs fighting: a good dog and a bad dog. Sometimes, the good dog defeats the bad dog and at other times the bad dog defeats the good dog. After describing what the nature of the inner struggle, one of the young people asked the elder, “Which of these dogs eventually wins the fight?” The elder answers, “The dog you feed more.” This is to say that the quality of food we give to the soul supports us in our inner struggle.
So, has anyone attained a level in life where he or she is impeccably holy? May be not. Holiness is not a destination, but a journey; it is a progressive shift in the art of goodness; it is a growth in our capacity to love; it is the ability and willingness to forgive, and holiness is the ability to respect the body.
A Chinese proverb says: “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”
We hear so much about the beauty of holiness. We can also think of holiness as beauty.
7TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48
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