"Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2).

Clergy Corner by Fr. David A. Runnion

Clergy Corner for February 19, 2017, Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18; Psalm 103:1-4,8,10,12-13; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48

"Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2).

God imparted the Holiness Code (Lev 17-26)-- and his other laws -- to his chosen people to teach them to maintain a state of purity (including ritual purity) as a sign of their intimate union with the Lord.

Fidelity to God, and love of God and neighbor, is at the heart of God's calling for his people:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Dt 6:4-5).

You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18).

God's law also contained many specific practices and prohibitions, which not only distinguished the chosen people from the pagans around them, but which began to form them into a people peculiarly God's own. God had in mind the formation of children after his own nature, which would reach fulfillment with the coming of Christ, the first-born among many brethren.

When, in the fullness of time, Jesus the Messiah arrived, the religious leaders had obscured the heart and the spirit of the Law with purely ritualistic actions. Jesus came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17), rejuvenating its spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3:16) and calling the children of God back to a genuine, loving, intimate union with their Father (e.g., Mt 5:44-45).

Part of Christ's re-orientation of the people's view of the Law addressed the hearts of men. When God gave the Law to Moses, he conveyed its critical interior component. For example, "You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.... Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people" (Lev 19:17-18).

Yet, Jesus had to remind them that God looks at our actions and our interior disposition. For example, "'You shall not commit adultery.' But... every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (My 5:27-28).

Jesus also advanced the Law's foundation via the law of love. For example, "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" (Mt 5:43-44).

Through the grace poured into our hearts, may we grow in holiness and Christ-like love of God and others.

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