|Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor|
Quote of the Week: “I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.” — George Burns
“There’s nothing new in this world” is a phrase often used to describe how the new is really old or, at best, it is the old dressed in new clothes.
One could argue, since we are in a technology age that people 100 years ago could never have imagined.
But in today’s scriptures, we hear words over 1,000 years old that are not new – far from it. They echoed in the ears, minds and hearts of every Jew and became part of what Jesus would describe as the most important commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
But more than just an echo in his mind, this section from Leviticus is foundational and core to everything that Jesus preaches and teaches in Matthew’s Gospel.
Jesus, first of all, gives the reason for loving. It isn’t about getting praise or winning points or even doing things right. There is a reason and meaning that is so profound and fundamental that it goes to our very identity: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”
God, who is love and who loves all, always, in all ways, calls us to love in the same way; therefore, Jesus captures within his teaching that purity and totality of love which go far beyond what you have heard or what has been taught to you before.
Jesus repeats again and again: “You have heard that it was said ... but I say to you!” In each of these sayings, Jesus asks his disciples, and “all who have ears to hear,” to go way beyond the “righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” and live the fulfillment of this love: “Offer no resistance to one who is evil; turn the other cheek; hand over your cloak as well; go for two miles; do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
The best he saves for last: “Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you.”
His reason is simple — that is what God does: “He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” After all, even sinners love those who love them.
But Jesus asks more: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” or quoting Leviticus: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”
There is another reason, perhaps a selfish one or at least self-serving, that is discovered when ones lives Jesus’ teaching. To “love like God loves” brings a peace, joy, contentment, harmony and holiness that is incomparable. It is as some would say: “living in God and God living in us”!
It might behoove us, the disciples of Jesus, to pay extra attention and trust when the master says those words: “But what I say to you is ...”.
Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email email@example.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.