Reflection for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
The Spirit has always exhorted us, “Be holy for I, your God, am holy.”
It must be clear that holiness is and will always be in relation to an “other,” and never exclusively in relation to one’s self. It is not merely a striving for perfection of one’s person, but a striving for perfection to understand and to be empathic and responsible for an “other” person.
This supernatural charity – of holy relations between a “one” and the “other” – has been at the foundation of all virtuous behavior and moral conduct, ever since for example, the time of the Hebrews’ exodus to the land promised by God, “Do not hate your brother in your heart; rebuke your neighbor frankly so as not to share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or nurture a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”
Simply said, holiness is not all about an individualistic or personal journey to the Father, but it is all about the same journey of conversion and redemption through and within the context of love, compassion, forgiveness and service for others.
This call to holiness, this call for an uncompromising acceptance of accountability for “other” persons, is firmly premised on the divine mystery that every creation of the Creator, without exception, is loved and blessed by him. Did not the Christ keenly observe, “For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good; and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust”
Therefore, we must be merciful to “both the wicked and the good,” and we must be considerate to “both the just and the unjust.” For who can dare say he himself is “not wicked,” or she herself is “not unjust?”
Hence, the challenge of every saint is to strive daily to be what God is, and to do what God does. And for as long as we do so, God will dwell in us.
So, we must then be careful not to become “unholy,” nor to lead others to become “unholy,” for we will be “destroyed” by him. The Apostle warns, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit abides within you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him. God’s temple is holy, and you are this temple.” He will take immediate action against anyone or anything which will “destroy” the holiness in us; against anyone or anything which will foment hatred, indifference, vengeance and violence at the expense and to the detriment of others.
How then, must we start responding to Grace?
First, we will never understand an “other” person, when we are only “wise in the ways of the world.” This worldly wisdom – “foolishness in God’s eyes” – is meant only for self-preservation, a wisdom of knowing how to survive in spite of others. We must instead turn into the opposite, we must “become fools” in the world, “so that we may become wise” in his eyes, a wisdom meant for the sustainability of all creation, of knowing how to thrive with and for others.
Second, we will never be empathic towards an “other” person, when we are too focused in “boasting about” how “good and generous” we are; nor will we be responsible for an “other” person when we are sorely lacking in the humility to acknowledge that “love, compassion, forgiveness and service for others” is possible not through our efforts but only through God, in whom “everything belongs.”
May we pray: Father, I now understand that success may be a good confidence-booster, but failure seems to be the much better teacher. I am grateful you made me capable of doing things for myself, but grant me too the clarity of vision to be conscious of what I lack; and to be conscious of you who alone can fill what I may never have.
Thank you for blessing me in my happiness and sorrows! Your gift of yourself is a meaningful reminder that being holy is not ‘what I can try to become’ rather simply ‘what you wish me to become’. I now realize it is not my journey alone, but our journey together.
And in that profound understanding of taking a spiritual sojourn with you, may I also realize that it is also not our journey alone, but a journey with all those who seek your loving presence – especially the sinners like myself who tearfully chose to return. Amen.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
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