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Sunday Homily (Full Text)

Sunday Homily

28

February 23, 2014 – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time   

10 AM Service

 

Reading 1            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.”

 

Responsorial Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;

and all my being, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

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.

The Lord is kind and merciful.

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,

slow to anger and abounding in kindness.

Not according to our sins does he deal with us,

nor does he requite us according to our crimes.

The Lord is kind and merciful.

As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he put our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

The Lord is kind and merciful.

 

Reading 2            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.

 

Gospel Mark 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.”

 

Homily

 

This morning I am going to have us all learn a new word because it is not a word we hear very often, but it sums up everything about these three readings. The word goes back to the Biblical time of Jesus.  It is a very simple word.  It is spelled Hesed —

H E S E D.  What does Hesed mean?  It means that love becomes so natural to us that we don’t think — do I like this person, or don’t I like this person — it just means that I am being loved by God and I have absolutely no choice but to love someone else.

 

I can’t decide who to love.  I can be friends and develop friendships. But when it comes to love written about in the Gospel there is no choice, we simply are to love one another and, as the Scripture says, go that extra mile.

Here are some examples of how that can play out in our life.

 

There was a Hindu who was living out his own life and a robber came up to him, put a knife to his chest and said, “Give me your money and everything you have.”  The Hindu reached into his pocket and he had a sack with just a few coins and he said, “Here.  This is all I have.”

 

The robber pulled the knife away and started to walk away and after  he got a distance away from the Hindu, the Hindu called out to him and yelled,  “Oh, please come back.  I forgot, I have a ruby in my sandal.”

 

The robber came back and the Hindu reached into his sandal and pulled out the ruby, which was worth a lot, and handed it to the man and said,  “Now you have everything that I can give you.”

 

The robber went off.  A couple days later the robber came back to this Hindu and the Hindu asked,  “What are you coming back for?  I gave you absolutely everything I had.”

 

The robber said,  “No you didn’t.  There’s one thing you have that I want and I need from you.  I want to know why you called me back to give me that ruby.”

 

The robber was going through a transformation in his own life, and he witnessed someone who was wiling to go the extra mile to show love.  The Hindu could have said, “Oh, the stupid idiot.  He took the money but I have the ruby and I’ve got a lot more left.”  That wasn’t the game plan.  The game plan was: I will give you everything you ask for, and more.

 

There was a gentleman who wrote a book and his goal was to research  and select ten people who had an influence on all the nations of the world.  He wrote the book and then someone came up to him and said, “I don’t quite understand.” 

 

The author of the book asked, “What don’t you understand?”

 

The gentleman said, “Well, you placed Mohammed first. And you placed Isaac Newton second.  And then you placed Jesus Christ third.”  

 

The author said, “Yes, I know what you are thinking.  You thought Jesus Christ would be first. And I would have listed him first, but when I did the research Mohammed has touched more people, and Isaac Newton, through technology today, has touched more people.  The reason Jesus came in third is because a lot of people know who Jesus is, but they have never embraced his teachings.”

 

That is something for us to think about. 

 

It is one thing for me to say,  “I’m a Catholic priest.  Big deal!”   But if I’m not letting God work through me, then I am cheating myself and everyone else. 

 

If you are a five-star plumber and you are asked to fix something in someone’s kitchen, you could say to that person, “Well, learn how to do it yourself.”  Or you could say, “I can do that easily.  I’ll have it done it five minutes.”

 

And so it comes to us: Do I step out of the box, or am I one-step ahead?

 

There was a guy who was a priest in school with me who was a year or two ahead of me in the seminary. When he was ordained he was assigned to a parish and moved into a rectory where there were three or four other priests living.  The priests decided that the best way to make everything happen around the rectory was to divide up the responsibilities.  So my friend thought, “Well, that makes sense.  It ought to work.”

 

But one day something came up and my friend could not carry out one of the responsibilities and he asked the other priests if one of them would do this task for him and was told, “No.  That’s your responsibility.”  My priest-friend said, “I was about ready to wring their necks and then I thought, no, I need to work something out here.”

 

The other three priests liked to drink coffee, and he did not drink coffee at all.  So the next morning he got up before anyone else.  He told me,  “I made a pot of coffee, poured some in a cup and then threw it down the drain.  I left the cup on the counter in the kitchen so the other priests would see it and think I had decided to drink coffee and was making coffee for myself.  But I was really making the coffee for them.  I had no intention of starting to drink coffee, but wanted them to know that I would go the extra step.  They would never have to know that I never drank one drop of that coffee.”

 

I could give you other examples that would go on and on forever.  But the question this morning is — how do I live out hesed?    Hesed means that every day of my life I want to extend my circle of compassion.  Hesed means I want to live my life so there is a ripple effect that will touch people’s lives and they never need to know who I am, or what I am doing.  I will just make this place a better place to live.

 

This morning as we baptize the children, you and  I are going to make a promise in a couple of minutes.  We are going to make a profession of faith and what we are saying to the children, and the parents here, and the godparents is, “You don’t have a thing to worry about.  Because as a parish family we are going to go that extra mile.  We will always be there for your children.”

 

The parents will also make that promise.  And we will surround these children. We will provide a safe environment for them.  We will teach them how to love.  We will correct them when they are wrong, but we correct them to make them a better person.

 

That’s who we are as a Christian community.

 

And so may you and I think about hesed when we go to work tomorrow, or tonight. Think about someone at work who drives you nuts.  What can you do to let that person know that deep down you truly love them? 

 

When the children come to school tomorrow, it’s for them to realize that no matter how good we may be at anything — we are all here to have fun.  We are all here to learn.

And if we love each other, we’ve got it made.

 

We are a hesed community.  It takes the Eucharist for us to have the courage to say,  “Wait. You forgot something.  I’ve got this ruby in my shoe.”  When you and I have mastered that, the very last line of the Gospel is fulfilled — “that you and I will be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.”

 

*  *  *

Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.

 

 

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