Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18
Psalm 103:1-3, 10, 12-13
Reading II First Corinthians 3:16-23
Gospel Matthew 5:38-48
I think all of us would have to say, “We strive to be perfect but we just don’t measure up to it 24-7.” As we see the world around us we might ask, “Why is that? What causes us to be imperfect? What causes us to be a fool rather than a person of wisdom?” When you think about it, it really comes down to not understanding the power of love. Love is one of the greatest things in the whole world. But when we don’t have love, that’s when we can become vicious, act of a different spirit, and we really don’t care about anyone.
If you remember back several months ago when the young man came into the church and sat down for the Bible study, engaged himself in the Bible study, and was just friendly as can be to everyone there — and then all of a sudden he got up and killed them all. There was mourning, there was anger. Did he love them or not? If he was studying the Bible, what got him to be so evil and wicked? But the families of those who were killed, they mourned, they cried, they had funerals for all of them, but then they publicly said as a group, “We forgive him.” They did not say it was OK. But as the Readings tell us, “The sun shines on the just and the unjust.”
It takes courage to say “we forgive” but when we do it we feel in our hearts, “I’ve released everything.” What causes someone to do such a thing? Unfortunately, we are reading about it in the papers all the time. This was just one incident. Maybe the thing we need to reflect on is that people in general are not united — we are not united in love. You can be Catholic or you can be Baptist, you can be black or you can be white, you can be a Democrat or Republican — that’s beside the point for we are all created by God. So do we have that reverence for one another? How do we give that support?
This week when I was at St. Dominic and here at Blessed Sacrament for the children’s liturgy, I was sharing with them an experience I had many years ago when I went to California. I went to Yosemite National Park. Some of you may have been there. When you walk in that park you automatically go into a retreat because you are so awed by everything: giant waterfalls, trees are just humongous. And the place is filled with what is called the Sequoia tree. It’s very unique. The Sequoia trees, when they begin to grow, come out of the ground and go beyond the ceiling of this church. But their roots are just under the earth. So you wonder about this. How could a tree that large not have very deep roots? And the interesting thing about the Sequoia trees is that when they go underground instead of going deep, they reach out and they mingle with the roots of the other trees, and under that entire forest is a connection from one Sequoia to the other Sequoia tree. And when you go out there and stand under one you feel just about “this high” when you are at the base of the tree.
As I shared with the children, that really is an experience of God’s kingdom. You and I are the children of God and our roots reach out and touch each other and they intertwine and they are all connected. When we feel the strength and the roots and the love of each other, then you and I rise to the occasion and our lives are beyond the ordinary. That’s why we can face cancer, we can face death, we can face someone being cruel to his or her children. We know it is a lack of love because if everyone is being loved all the time — we would change the face of the entire world and all five continents. Then all the news we read about or are shown on TV would be one blessing after another happening everywhere and we all would be touched by that. If he can do that, if she can do that, if those kids can do that — then I can do that and I feel that strength. That’s how God draws us into one another and Jesus says, “When your tree grows — your love grows, and when your love grows everyone is safe, everyone is fulfilled, and you have the wisdom to know where it comes from.”
So tonight as we pray together, our roots are touching each other from seat to seat from pew to pew, and when we come up and receive the Eucharist it is going to allow us to give strength to one another and when we leave here we can go out into the world and hopefully when we see one who is not being loved we don’t have to be the hero but what we can say in our hearts is, “I’m going to pray for that person. Or, I am going to ask that person not to do that.” And we touch their hearts and we change their feelings and we change their direction.
When I walk around the parish or if I drive up in front of the rectory and kids are climbing on the walls or doing something they shouldn’t be doing, they all know who I am and immediately come down from the walls and go somewhere else — not because I hate them but because they know, “We really shouldn’t be doing this.” They are not knocking the windows out of the church, but I have become the “watchful eye.” And I watch them out of love because I never know what their backgrounds are. They may go home and say to each other, “You don’t have to worry about him. Just go climb those walls.” We presume that everybody is living as we live, everybody is loved as we love, everybody is as forgiving as we forgive — that’s not the world — so Jesus says, “Don’t seek revenge, but make the effort to change,” and when we change the world in which we live, then we create Yosemite right here in Quincy.
People can drive in and say, “This is one of the friendliest towns I have ever been in.” Not because we all get a trophy every morning, but inside of us there is something that tells us, “God’s love is real. And if I am a child of God, I am for real. And if I am for real, then I have to see love in every person, in every moment of my life.” That is the challenge that comes to us in these Readings.
* * *
Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file Disc C 0019)