7th Sunday Ordinary Time A

You shall not bear hatred

Time was when even villains held bishops rather in awe, and for that reason were less ready to mistreat them than other members of the human race. This is no longer true- witness the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II.

In recent years some American bishops have been set upon by some of our home-grown criminals. For instance, one Saturday night in 1983, 69-year-old Bishop Maurice Dingman of Des Moines came out of a convenience store where he had broken his last $20 bill to pay for gasoline. When he got into his car, one face appeared, and then a second. The two men forced themselves into the bishop’s car and demanded money. He showed them all he had: “Chicken feed.” “Co-operate or else!” they threatened. Whereupon the one in the driver’s seat, reeking of marijuana, started on a wild drive to the next town. When they passed a bank with a borrowing slot, they stopped and ordered the bishop to use his plastic card and draw out some money. The bishop replied that he didn’t own a card. This left the captives frustrated, but all the more dangerous. Bishop Dingman could have run off, but thought that would just invite violence. Finally, after the pair had partied in a house of friends, they drove the bishop back to Des Moines in the early morning. All that night, Bishop Dingman admitted later on, “I never prayed so hard in my life!”

A few years before this, robbers had broken into the house of Bishop John Morkowsky of Houston, Texas. When they took the small money that he had, they beat him up and blinded him in one eye. Likewise, in the early 1980’s, criminals in Cleveland murdered a Catholic black man named Amos Lyke. His brother was James P. Lyke, auxiliary bishop of Cleveland. This was another form of cruelty.

Had these three bishops been vengeful, they could have tracked down their enemies and demanded a tooth for a tooth. True, they were willing to assist the police in the interests of public order. But beyond that they would not go. “I want to do something for people like this,” said Bishop Dingman. “I never felt any desire to get revenge on my assailants,” said Bishop Morkowsky. And Bishop Lyke at his brother’s funeral begged God to forgive the murderers of Amos.

In today’s second gospel, Jesus tells, “love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” This is the true Christian spirit. How consoling, then, to see our teachers of Christian love, the pope, the archbishop, and these three bishops, really practicing themselves, the forgiveness they preach to others.

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q. 620: Is Jesus just talking today about an ideal, not expecting us all to reach it?

A. 620: This can be a tough gospel (Matthew 5:38-48) for some folks! As you read the inspired word of God, sometimes a couple of those commands can kind of get stuck in your throat and not want to come out! For example, verse 42: “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Or again, verse 48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Did he really mean little old me, or was he only talking to our Pastor? [Yes, he definitely meant little old you and me!]

Why is it that we worry so much about someone coming to borrow from us? Are we worried that the whole city will line up at our door? Be honest with yourself: exactly how many times in the past five years has someone asked to borrow either money or other things from you? When did you ever say “no,” and why? I don’t think anyone would ever turn their back on someone really in need; it is in our very nature to give. If we worry about lending to someone in need, it is only because we are still too attached to our possessions, trusting more in them than in God – a sign of the vice of greed or avarice.

Or why does the idea of being perfect worry us? To be perfect simply means to know God’s will and to act accordingly. That is not outside of our ability. The Holy Spirit has been given to us, and he dwells within us. Jesus told us more than once: “Ask and you shall receive.” If we ask the Holy Spirit, he will show us the right way to live. It does call for effort on our part; we have the responsibility to inform our conscience with God’s truth, not with the world’s desires. Our church teachings are clear and easy to understand; ask and you shall receive an answer that accords with God’s will!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Christ will recognize you by what you have done (or judge you by what you have not done) to his beloved poor (CCC 2443). The call to perfection is simply a call to holiness (CCC 2013), within reach of each one of us.

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Love Your Neighbor

The first reading from Leviticus tells the Israelites that to be holy they must love their neighbor. But they thought that their neighbors were just their fellow Israelites. In the Gospel Jesus makes the command to love universal, to love all people even their enemies. He tells them he did not come to abolish Israel as God’s people, but to fulfill , to expand it to include all humankind. Jesus tells us that our love of neighbor must be like God’s love for us, universal and total. This was not easy for the earliest Christians, nor is it easy for us. St. Paul had to remind the Corinthian Christians That they may correct their enemies but no revenge, no holding grudges.

Lord, we are weak and we often forget your command to love. In our weakness we are not capable of being so selfless. send your Spirit to give us the strength to imitate your self-giving love of our neighbor.

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