OFFICE FOR LITURGY

of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

“Love your neighbour as yourself.” These are words we associate so clearly with the teaching of Jesus and the way of life the Gospel calls us to. But it may be a surprise to some people to hear that these words come first from the Old Testament, in the mouth of Moses himself. Moses was speaking the Lord God’s instruction for the community – the community of the people of Israel in flight from Egypt in their long sojourn in the wilderness. God’s instructions were about how that community had to work – without grudges, resentment or vengeance, but with love and forgiveness and tolerance. When Jesus comes with the message of the Kingdom of heaven, it is the same – instruction for a perfect, God-guided society, which depends on how each of us lives with others. The “wisdom of this world”, which Saint Paul mentions in the Second Reading, will not teach us this: the world will believe in vengeance, and friendship only for your friends. Each of us must ask how we can embrace the apparent folly of Jesus’ teaching: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Anthony van Dyke "Saint Martin Dividing His Cloak"

From the Catechism

Notes for Readers

Love of neighbour incompatible with hatred of enemies
CCC 1933, 2303

Prohibition to harm others apart from self-defense
CCC 2262-2267

Prayer and pardon of enemies
CCC 2842-2845

The heavenly Father’s perfection calls all to holiness
CCC 2012-2016

We become temples of the Holy Spirit in baptism
CCC 1265

Saints are temples of the Holy Spirit
CCC 2684

2841-2845
This petition is so important that it is the only one to which the Lord returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount. This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for man. But "with God all things are possible."
   . . . as we forgive those who trespass against us
This "as" is not unique in Jesus' teaching: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"; "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful"; "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." It is impossible to keep the Lord's commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make "ours" the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves "forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave" us.
Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.
Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.
There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness, whether one speaks of "sins" as in Luke (11:4), "debts" as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another." The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relationship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.
First Reading: Leviticus 19:1-2.17-18
 
This is a short but powerful reading, in which the word of God comes through Moses to the people – a reminder of the responsibility of the reader! This is a challenging, stern and yet deeply loving message: springing from the holiness of God (a reference that is repeated in the Gospel) there is a very firm instruction to the people about how they are to live – notice (and emphasise) the use of the word “must”. These are short, powerful phrases, so do not rush them – allow each one to hang in the air for a moment, so that people may absorb them and think about them. Notice how the words of God are “topped and tailed” by a reminder of who is speaking – allow a certain solemnity in your announcing those lines.
 
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
 
Paul is here using a strong rhetorical device to get his point across – it is an over emphatic, almost simplistic comparison of the “wisdom of this world” and the wisdom or way of God. This reading is in three short sections: first, a passage about the “temple of God” – Paul is saying it is the Church, the community of the faithful, and that it is sacred and to be kept safe. These words should be addressed directly to the congregation, since they are that temple today. The second section is the contrasting of wisdom and foolishness: Paul dismisses the “arguments of the wise”, saying that they rank as insignificant against God – they might as well be the greatest foolishness. The final passage mentions boasting, and makes a remarkable claim: that everything belongs to the family of the Church, which in turn belongs to Christ. Make sure that you “change gear” suitably between these three sections, and allow the central message of each to come to your listeners.

Gospel Wordsearch