Lv 19:1-2, 17-18; I Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48
Way back in 1865 Lewis Carroll published a novel for children. Alice in Wonderland was its name. In that novel we find Alice one day wandering around in a dream world. She stops and asks a cat: “Would you tell me, please, which way I should go from here?” The cat replies: “That depends a good deal on where you want to be.” Alice said: “Oh, I don’t much care.” With that the cat responds: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.” But Alice persisted: “But I want to get somewhere.” Whereupon the cat, with a wry grin, said: “Oh, you are sure to do that!”
We can be a lot like Alice, saying “Oh, it doesn’t much matter” to a whole lot of things. Like it doesn’t much matter which church you go to. It doesn’t much matter what you believe, and so forth. Pretty soon nothing much matters at all. Eventually our lives don’t matter, and we’ll be just like Alice drifting aimlessly in our own little wonderland going nowhere!
Goals are important, otherwise our living is aimless. Aiming at a goal is vitally necessary if we’re going to have any sense at all concerning the path we are taking as we journey through life.
The scripture readings give us a goal today. 1st reading tells: “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy”. 2nd reading asks us: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” And in the gospel Jesus tells us: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. All the readings point to one theme, “Universal call to Holiness”.
To understand today’s readings we have to understand what it means to be holy. When we think of holiness, we usually equate it with doing “religious stuff.” So a person who says the rosary, comes to church on Sunday, follows the Ten Commandments, and tries to do God’s will, is a person we would say is holy. But when we look at today’s first reading from Leviticus, it becomes clear that this understanding of holiness is insufficient. God says to Moses, “Tell Israel they are to be holy as I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Now, how is God holy? God does not do religious stuff. God does not say the rosary, follow the Ten Commandments, or come to church on Sunday. In what sense, then, is God holy, and how are we to imitate God’s holiness? The answer to this question is found in the Hebrew word for holiness. It means to be other, to be different, to be transcendent. God is clearly other, different from anything we have sensed or imagined. God is transcendent beyond our comprehension. So God is holy because God is different, transcendent, other. And we are to be holy by being different, by being other in the way we live.
Jesus seems to echo the words that are already found in the Torah: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2) “Be perfect just your heavenly Father is perfect.” Perfection then can simply be understood as holiness. He shows the way to live out Father’s love.
He say; “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.” Matthew 5:38-39
There is a story of a holy man meditating on the banks of the river Gan¬ges. One day he saw a large scorpion caught in the long roots of a tree. The old man reached out to free the scorpion. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion lifted its tail and stung him but the old man reached out again and again. People who passed by shouted, “Are you mad, risking your life to save such an ugly, useless creature?” The old man turned to them and said, “Friend, because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, why should I give up my own nature to save?” The story of the old man and the scorpion raises a problem that we all face: do we always take action from the treatment we receive from others, or do we continue in the way of love and service even when we get stung ourselves?
Jesus confirms the ancient Law that you should love your neighbor, but rejects any interpretation of the Law that permits people to hate their enemies. Jesus argues that the love his disciples give is not related to the love they receive from others. The disciple is called to love because LOVE is the nature of discipleship itself. So as we consider, this weekend, that God’s love is unique – that he allows the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the good AND the bad – so we must love others, even perhaps especially those we do not like. Who knows, if we do, we may well make our world a better place.
God calls everyone to holiness: Everyone is to love everyone the way God loves everyone because we are created in his own image and likeness.