A reading from the Book of Leviticus
(Chapter 19:1-2, 17-18)
“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” This is the beginning of a whole series of laws that Moses is proclaiming to the people, including how they are to treat one another. The reading ends with one of the most important: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus taught the same law many years later, and it is still most important today. Imagine how many millions of lives could have been saved and wars avoided if that “law above all laws” had been not only proclaimed but lived.
(Psalm 103: 1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13)
“The Lord is kind and merciful…. He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.” Do you know this God? This is the God of Moses and of Jesus. This is our God.
A reading from St. Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians
Paul tells the Christian community in Corinth, “Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells within you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” Throughout the history of the Jewish people, they lived in awe of the temple in Jerusalem, and yet, their holy temple was destroyed. Paul is telling them that the true temple of God is within them, because the very Spirit of God lives in them.
This wisdom that the Spirit of God lives in us is a wisdom that is often neglected or not understood. In Paul’s day, there were many other wisdom teachers, Greek philosophers and so-called mystics, and he wants folks to know that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
In our own day, there are so many sources of information on the internet and in public media, but where is true wisdom? It is, as always, a gift from the Spirit, given in the spirit of Love.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
Jesus said to his disciples, “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 the sun shine 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.”
Moses told the people, “love your neighbors.” Jesus goes way beyond that to embrace enemies. He says that even tax collectors, who were universally hated, loved their neighbors. But imagine trying to love the Roman rulers who were killing Jesus’ followers and would continue to murder Christians for almost 300 years.
Unfortunately, the word “hate” has entered into our political and social discourse with increasing frequency. We hear it every day from all sorts of people and groups. Even when there is serious reason for disagreements, there is no excuse for hatred. It only breeds more hatred and division, not love. It is not the way of Jesus.
Photograph by Dan Edge on Unsplash
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.