February 16, 2020

O. T. VII Sunday (Feb 23, 2020) homily

OT VII [A] Sunday (Feb 23) 1-page summary for an 8-minutes homily

Introduction: Today’s readings explain why Christians are expected to be holy and how we are meant to become holy people. The first and second readings give us reasons why we should be holy, and the Gospel describes four ways of becoming holy people prescribed for us by Jesus using three examples of graceful Christian retaliation when people offend them and violate their rights and privileges.

 Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from the book of Leviticus, teaches us that we should be holy because it is the command given to us by God through Moses: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” It also shows us the way to share in God’s holiness: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 103) challenges us to be holy as our God is holy by becoming kind and merciful and forgiving, as He is to us. In the second reading, St. Paul gives us an additional reason to be holy. We are to keep our bodies and souls holy because we are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit lives in us. In the Gospel passages taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us four ways of becoming holy as God is holy.

Life message: We need to become holy:  1) The first way is to abstain from all forms of retaliation. Jesus discards even the milder form of retaliation developed by Hammurabi in ancient Babylon and passed on to Israel through Moses. The policy was one of limited, proportional retaliation (Lex Talionis, “tit-for-tat”): “an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth,” rather than allowing unlimited vengeance. In place of this limited, proportional retaliation, Jesus gives his new law of love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation and no retaliation. For Jesus, retaliation, or even limited vengeance, has no place in the Christian life, even though graceful acceptance of an offense requires great strength, discipline of character, and strengthening by God’s grace. 2) The second way of becoming holy as God is holy is to take the offense gracefully and love the offender. Jesus illustrates this in three images: “turning the other cheek, freely giving the tunic and adding the cloak to it and walking the extra mile.” Jesus tells us that what makes Christians different is the grace with which they treat others, offering them loving kindness and mercy, even if they don’t deserve this treatment, as God does for us. We are commanded to love our enemies as Jesus loves us, with agápe love, not because our enemies deserve our love, but because Jesus loves them so much that he died for them as he did for us.  3) The third way of sharing in God’s holiness is by unconditionally and whole-heartedly forgiving the offender without planning revenge in any form. This means not only loving one’s neighbors, but also forgiving those enemies who hurt us and seem willfully to cause us suffering, hardship and unhappiness.

4) The fourth way of becoming holy as God is holy is to seal our determination to forgive our enemies by sincerely praying for their spiritual and physical welfare and for the grace needed for their conversion and renewal of life. Thus, today’s Scripture readings challenge us to become holy as our God is holy by loving, forgiving, and blessing others, even our enemies with graceful and magnanimous love, as our Holy God does.

OT VII [A] (Feb 23) Lv 19:1-2, 17-18; I Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48 (full text)

Homily starter anecdotes:AP photographer Nick Ut's award-winning photo showing Phan Thi Kim Phuc screaming and running as her back was burnt in a US napalm attack during Vietnam War on 8 June, 1972. Phan Thi Kim Phuc 1) “If I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bomb”: On the Veterans Day of November 1996, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, now 33, came to the black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial as a wife and mother, to tell several thousand spectators that she forgives those who bombed her village and has put the past behind her. Kim Phuc placed a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and delivered a short speech. When Kim Phuc was only 9 years old, her picture was taken by an Associated Press photographer and it stirred the conscience of the world. Moments after the picture was taken, Kim Phuc lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital by the photographer, Nick Ut, who later won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo. Her village had just been hit by a napalm bomb attack by the South Vietnamese air force sponsored by the USA air force. Her two cousins were killed instantly. Kim Phuc’s clothes were burned off her. In the photograph, this little girl was running, naked, in pain and terror. In front of the wall inscribed with the names of more than 58,000 U.S. war dead, Kim Phuc said that she was focused on the future. Speaking to a hushed crowd in Washington, she made the following statement: “I have suffered a lot from my physical and emotional pain. Sometimes I thought I could not live, but God saved my life and gave me Faith and Hope. If I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bomb, I would tell him we cannot change history, but we should try to do things for the present and for the future to promote peace.” No retaliation! Just tough, wise love. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1996-11-12/news/9611120185_1_phan-thi-kim-phuc-vietnam-veterans-memorial-fund-war-victim). http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/04/vietnam-war-napalm-girl-photo-today Video= https://youtu.be/wYC7RsU3OKs. That’s the spirit of Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount given in today’s Gospel. It’s the greatest power on earth. In the face of it, the devil trembles. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

2) “The goal is reconciliation and redemption.” Martin Luther King, Jr. would take this principle from the Sermon on the Mount and use it to revolutionize America. King used to say, “No man can pull me down so low as to make me hate him.” The real goal, said King, was not to defeat the white man, but to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor and to challenge his false sense of superiority. “The goal is reconciliation, redemption, the creation of the beloved community.” The words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount which Martin Luther King paraphrased, are totally out of step with our present world, because our world believes in retaliation. 75 percent of Christians believe in capital punishment because they think we can stop the killing by killing the killers. That’s retaliation. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

3) “He couldn’t fight, either.” One day a truck driver stopped at a restaurant for dinner and ordered a steak. Before he could eat it, in walked a motorcycle gang, with dirty leather jackets and long, unkempt hair. They took the man’s steak, cut it into six pieces, and ate it. The driver said nothing. He simply paid the bill and walked out. One of the gang members said, “That man couldn’t talk. He didn’t say a word.” Another one said, “He couldn’t fight, either; he didn’t lift a hand.” A waiter added, “I would say that he couldn’t drive either. On his way out of the parking lot, he ran over six motorcycles crushing all of them.” Something in us loves that story, because we like retaliation. But in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus prescribes forgiving love as the Christian trump card. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Introduction: Today’s readings explain the basis of Jewish and Christian morality, the holiness of the loving, merciful and compassionate One God. God’s chosen people were, and are, expected to be holy people sharing in God’s holiness by embodying His love, mercy and forgiveness.

Scripture readings summarized: The first reading, taken from the book of Leviticus, gives the holiness code: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” It also gives us the way to share God’s holiness: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 103) challenges us to be like our God – kind, merciful and forgiving — and it shows us the measure of perfection Christ asks us to bring to our relationships. In the second reading, St. Paul gives us an additional reason to be holy. We are to keep our bodies holy because we are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit lives in us. In the Gospel passages taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus confirms, corrects, and expands the Ten Commandments. Here, Jesus condemns even the mild form of the “Law of the Talion, (Lex Talionis),” the Babylonian tribal law of restricted retaliation which Moses passed on to Israel. In its place, Jesus gives his new law of love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation and no retaliation. For Jesus, retaliation, or even limited vengeance, has no place in the Christian life, even though graceful acceptance of an offense requires great strength and discipline of character, as well as strengthening by God’s grace. The second part of today’s Gospel passage is the central part of the Sermon on the Mount. It presents the Christian ethic of personal relationships: love one’s neighbors and forgive one’s enemies. It tells us that what makes Christians different is the grace with which they treat others with loving kindness and mercy, even if they don’t deserve it. We are commanded to love our enemies as Jesus loves us, with agápe love, not because our enemies deserve our love, but because Jesus loves them so much that he died for them as He did for us.

First reading: Lv 19: 1-2, 17-18 explained: The first reading, taken from the book of Leviticus, gives the holiness code: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” This passage explains that God of Israel is a transcendent God beyond human knowledge and at the same time a God who wants to be with His people. Therefore, the people are expected not only adore, revere and love Him, but also to share His holiness by living holy lives in God’s presence. The Divine nature is that God is holy, and His holiness consists of His unconditional and magnanimous love, care, concern, mercy, and forgiveness towards every human being. It follows, then, that in order to be holy, we have to be kind, loving, merciful, forgiving, and compassionate toward our neighbors – and this is what God wants us to be when He calls each one of us to be holy, to be spiritually perfect. Listening to the voice of the Lord, we thus realize what holiness entails: bearing no hatred in one’s heart, foregoing revenge, and holding no grudge, particularly towards a fellow citizen. All this is summed up in Love your neighbor as yourself.” Everyone is to love everyone the way God loves everyone. Indeed, the merciful God gently guides His chosen people on the path of holiness. The reading teaches us that we share God’s holiness when we obey the two great commandments: 1) “Love your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. 2) “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Second Reading: I Cor 3:16-23 explained: In the second reading, St. Paul gives us an additional reason to be holy. We are to keep our bodies holy because we are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit lives in us. The word naos, which Paul uses for temple, refers to the sanctuary, corresponding to the Holy of Holies in the Temple at Jerusalem where the Lord God chose to dwell. Paul teaches us all that the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us makes our community and each of its members a holy temple, the naos of God. For the Holy Spirit continually gives us His gifts, fruits and charisms with which we can better live the very life of Christ.

Gospel exegesis: Mosaic Law of mild retaliation: During their captivity in Egypt, the Jews became familiar with the crude tribal law of retaliation (Lex Talionis = Tit-for-Tat), given by the ancient lawmaker Hammurabi during the period 2285-2242 BC. When this law was first developed, it made life better and more civilized. It restricted revenge and made it commensurate with the offense. Moses instructed the Israelites to follow tit-for-tat retaliation, rather than to wreak total destruction upon their enemies. That is, instead of mutilating or murdering all the members of the offender’s family or tribe, they should discover the offender and only punish him/her with an equal mutilation or harm. Later, a milder version of this law was substituted. It demanded monetary compensation, as decided by a judge, in place of physical punishment. Moses also gave the Israelites several laws commanding merciful treatment for the enemy (e.g., Lv 19:18). By advising, “Turn to him the other cheek,” Jesus instructs his followers to forgive an insult gracefully and, so, convert the offender. He commands that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us to prove that we are children of a merciful Heavenly Father. The meaning of “turn the other cheek” is “Don’t return insult for insult.” The message of Jesus is, “Don’t retaliate.” Instead, we are to win over the aggressor with tough, wise love, so that we may win people to Christ and transform human society into the Kingdom of God.

The true Christian reaction: Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount rejects even the concession of milder retaliation allowed by Moses. For Jesus, retaliation, or even limited vengeance, has no place in the Christian life, even though graceful acceptance of an offense requires great strength and discipline of character, as well as strengthening by God’s grace. Jesus wants his disciples to repay evil with kindness. Instead of retaliation, Jesus gives his new law of love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation and no retaliation. Jesus illustrates the Christian approach by giving three examples. 1) Turn to him the other cheek: Striking someone on the right cheek requires striking with the back of one’s hand, and according to Jewish concept it inflicts more insult than pain. Jesus instructs his followers to forgive the insult gracefully and convert the offender. It is interesting that Gandhi said, “Everyone in the world knows that Jesus and His teaching are non-violent, except Christians.” 2) “If anyone sues you to take away your coat (chitona), let him have your cloak (himation) also”: (v. 40).  A chitona is a lightweight garment like a shirt (but long like a robe), worn close to the skin.  A himation is an outer garment like a coat and is also long.  To surrender both chitona and himation would render a man essentially naked, which suggests that Jesus is using exaggerated language to make the point that we are to defuse conflict by yielding more than is required. Jesus teaches that his followers should show more responsibility and a greater sense of duty than to fight for privileges. 3) Go with him two miles. Roman law permitted its soldiers and other officials to require people to carry a burden for a mile.  Service of this sort could be quite oppressive.  Here, Jesus tells us that a Christian has the duty of responding, even to seemingly unjust demands by helping or serving gracefully, not grudgingly. The principle is this: When we respond to an onerous duty with cheerfulness rather than resentment, we may win over the one who gave us the duty.

Christian ethic of personal relationships: The second part of today’s Gospel passage is perhaps the central and the most famous section of the Sermon on the Mount. It gives us the Christian ethic of personal relationships: love one’s neighbors and forgive one’s enemies. Above all, it tells us that what makes Christians different is the grace with which they treat others with loving kindness and mercy, even if they don’t deserve it. The Old Law never said to hate enemies, but that was the way some Jews understood it.  Jesus commands that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us to demonstrate that we are children of a merciful Heavenly Father. A Christian has no personal enemies. If we only love our family and friends, we are no different from pagans or atheists.

We need to love our neighbors and our enemies too: Love of neighbor is incompatible with hatred of enemies (CCC #1933, #2303). The Greek word used for loving enemies is not storge (natural love towards family members), or philia (love of close friends), or eros (passionate love between a young man and woman), but agápe, which is the invincible benevolence or good will for another’s highest good. Since agápe is not natural, practicing it is possible only with God’s help. Agápe love is a choice more than a feeling. We choose to love, not because our enemies deserve our love, but because Jesus loves them so much that he died for them. We have in the Acts of the Apostles the example of St. Stephen, the first martyr, who prayed for those who were putting him to death.

Life messages: 1) We need to have a forgiving heart: Jesus demands that we should forgive, pardon and be generous whether or not our offenders deserve it, and even if we are not loved in return. He also tells us to pray for those who, it may seem, willfully cause us suffering, hardship and unhappiness.

2) We are to try to be perfect, to be like God: We become perfect when we know God’s will and act accordingly. We can do so because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, and He dwells within us, empowering us to do God’s will. We become perfect when we try to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives and to show unconditional good will and universal benevolence as God does.

Joke of the week

1) The Rev. Cleveland Duke of Akron is a part-time judo instructor. He says, “I teach you what to do after you’ve turned both cheeks.” He teaches self-defense.

2) In Bill Adler’s popular book of letters from kids, an 8-year-old boy from Nashville, Tennessee makes this contribution: “Dear Pastor, I know God wants us to love everybody, but He surely never met my sister.” Sincerely, Arnold.

3) “What does agápe love mean?” asked the teacher. “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So, my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s agápe love.” (Rebecca- age 8).

4) Forgiving others: The pastor’s Sunday homily on today’s Gospel about was forgiving our enemies. Toward the end of the homily, he asked his congregation, “How many of you have forgiven their enemies”? About half held up their hands. He then repeated his question. As it was past lunchtime, this time about 80 percent held up their hands. He then repeated his question again. All responded, except one small elderly lady. “Mrs. Jones?” inquired the pastor, are you not willing to forgive your enemies? “I don’t have any.” she replied. smiling sweetly. “Mrs. Jones, That is very unusual. How old are you?” “Ninety-three,” she replied. “Oh Mrs. Jones, what a blessing and a lesson to us all you are. Would you please come down in front of this congregation and tell us all how a person can live ninety-three years and not have an enemy in the world?” The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation, and said “I outlived the old hags.”

Websites of the week

1) Catechism – quizzes by USCCB

http://www.nccbuscc.org/catechism/quizzes/index.htm

2) Community Catholic Search Engine: http://www.catholic.org/newsearch/

3) Fr. James Farfaglia website: http://www.fjicthus.com/Prod/76907a0211e4452caecd7de5c77d4736/Home-Page.aspx

4) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://youtu.be/yJEAEwoApw0 

35- Additional anecdotes:

1) You shall not bear hatred: Time was when even villains held Bishops rather in awe, and for that reason were less ready to mistreat them than other members of the human race. This is no longer true- witness the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. In recent years, some American bishops have been set upon by some of our home-grown criminals. For instance, one Saturday night in 1983, 69-year-old Bishop Maurice Dingman of Des Moines came out of a convenience store where he had broken his last $20 bill to pay for gasoline. When he got into his car, one face appeared, and then a second. The two men forced themselves into the bishop’s car and demanded money. He showed them all he had: “Chicken feed.” “Co-operate or else!” they threatened. Whereupon the one in the driver’s seat, reeking of marijuana, started on a wild drive to the next town. When they passed a bank with a borrowing slot, they stopped and ordered the bishop to use his plastic card and draw out some money. The bishop replied that he didn’t own a card. This left the captives frustrated, but all the more dangerous. Bishop Dingman could have run off but thought that would just invite violence. Finally, after the pair had partied in a house of friends, they drove the bishop back to Des Moines in the early morning. All that night, Bishop Dingman admitted later on, “I never prayed so hard in my life!” A few years before this, robbers had broken into the house of Bishop John Morkowsky of Houston, Texas. When they took the small money that he had, they beat him up and blinded him in one eye. Likewise, in the early 1980’s, criminals in Cleveland murdered a Catholic black man named Amos Lyke. His brother was James P. Lyke, auxiliary bishop of Cleveland. This was another form of cruelty. Had these three bishops been vengeful, they could have tracked down their enemies and demanded a tooth for a tooth. True, they were willing to assist the police in the interests of public order. But beyond that they would not go. “I want to do something for people like this,” said Bishop Dingman. “I never felt any desire to get revenge on my assailants,” said Bishop Morkowsky. And Bishop Lyke at his brother’s funeral begged God to forgive the murderers of Amos. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells, “love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” This is the true Christian spirit. How consoling, then, to see our teachers of Christian love, the Pope, the Archbishop, and these three Bishops, really practicing themselves, the forgiveness they preach to others. (Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

2) “I’m not so sure.” In the movie Gandhi, the great Indian leader is walking one day with a Presbyterian missionary, Charlie Andrews. The two suddenly find their way blocked by young thugs. The Reverend Andrews takes one look at the menacing gangsters and decides to run for it. Gandhi stops him and asks, “Doesn’t the New Testament say if an enemy strikes you on the right cheek you should offer him the left?” Andrews mumbles something about Jesus speaking metaphorically. Gandhi replies, “I’m not so sure. I suspect he meant you must show courage–be willing to take a blow, several blows, to show you will not strike back nor will you be turned aside.” Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

3) “Yeah, but it’s my way.” In the 1985 movie, Witness, Harrison Ford plays a tough Philadelphia detective who uncovers corruption within his department. To protect himself and a young boy who has witnessed a murder, Ford’s character, John Book, hides out among the Pennsylvania Amish, the community from which the little boy comes. In one scene of the movie, Book and several of the Amish go into town for a day of shopping. While they are in town, the buggies driven by the Amish are involved in a traffic jam with a car. The occupants of the car emerge to confront the Amish in the buggies. With unwarranted hostility, they taunt one young Amish man. One of the men from the car, a young tough, smears ice cream in the Amish man’s face. Ignoring the protests of an older Amish man, Book goes over to beat up the ruffians who have bullied the young Amish man. The older Amish man insists to Book that, “it’s not our way.” To which Book responds, “Yeah, but it’s my way.” The scene from the movie helps us focus on the content of our passage of Scripture for this morning. The Amish, a community in the Anabaptist tradition, sees the Sermon on the Mount as part of their core Scripture. The reason the young man in the scene doesn’t fight back against the bullies is that he is turning the other cheek, as Jesus said to do. In order to avoid violence, in order to avoid anyone getting hurt, he willingly accepts humiliation. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

4) We are angry over 9/11, but our anger doesn’t control us: In May of 2006, the whole country had to confront an enemy. His cold angry eyes stared at us from our newspapers and television sets. Zacarias Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison. He was the only person tried in American courts for the terrorist attack on 9/11. Many people in our country, including many family members of the victims of 9/11, had hoped that the courts would sentence Moussaoui to death. Some people see a life sentence as an act of mercy. One juror kept Moussaoui from a death sentence. Technically, one of the issues was just how involved Moussaoui was in the 9/11 plot. Nevertheless, many people interpreted the jury’s decision as a declaration that we in the United States are not ruled by vengeance. We can step back from our rage at 9/11 and make careful distinctions. We are angry over 9/11, but our anger doesn’t control us. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

5) “It’s a new life, almost like a resurrection.” Immaculee Ilibagiza was a 22-year-old university student in the 1990s when terrible violence broke out in her home country of Rwanda. Hutus killed her parents, her brothers, and hundreds of her Tutsi friends. A Hutu pastor, who risked his life to save her, hid her and six other women. They lived in a small bathroom, a wooden wardrobe covering the door. For three months, they endured hunger, fear, and the sounds of soldiers in the house unsuccessfully searching for Tutsis. In those cramped quarters, she began to pray the Rosary. Always she stumbled over the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” She knew that the prayer called her to forgive those who had killed her family and endangered her. She didn’t think she could do it, but she realized she was consumed by hate. She was afraid she would become like the people who had killed her family. Nevertheless, in her mind, forgiving her family’s killers was like forgiving the devil. Finally, afraid that her hate would crush her heart, she asked God to forgive those who had done her so much harm. Slowly, with God’s help, she was able to let go and forgive her family’s killers. Eventually, she even visited one of her brother’s killers in prison, taking his hand and offering forgiveness. She says that forgiveness saved her life. “It’s a new life, almost like a resurrection.” [Bob Smietana, “Woman Challenged to Forgive Massacre of Family in Rwanda,” United Methodist Reporter (152.51, April 28, 2006), p. 3A.] Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

6) Hate destroys the hater: In Martin Luther King’s sermon, “Knock at Midnight, King says, “My brother A.D. and I were traveling from Atlanta to Chattanooga on a dark and stormy night. For some reason, travelers were very discourteous that night. Hardly a single driver dimmed their lights. Finally, A.D. who was driving, said, ‘I have had enough’ as he powered his lights back on bright. I said, ‘Don’t do that, you are going to cause a wreck and get us killed.’ Somebody must have sense enough to dim their lights, to break the cycle of hate. If somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful lights of love, we are all going to plunge into the abyss.”‘ A suicide bomber blows up a crowded bus in Israel. Israel responds by destroying an entire Palestinian village. The Palestinians react with more suicide bombers. Who is going to break the cycle of hate? A Chinese Proverb puts it succinctly, “Whoever pursues revenge should dig two graves; one for his injurer, and one for himself.” Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

7) “We will pray.” Bonhoeffer, facing death said, in Cost of Discipleship, “We are approaching an age of widespread persecution. Our adversaries seek to root out the Christian Church because they cannot live side by side with us. So, what shall we do? We will pray. It will be a prayer of earnest love for those who stand around and gaze at us with eyes aflame with hatred, and who have perhaps already raised their hands to kill us.” Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

8) “With malice toward none; with charity for all:” In his second Inaugural address, March 4, 1865, just a little over a month before he would be assassinated, Abraham Lincoln uttered these immortal words: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln spoke those words at the end of a time in our nation’s history when America almost did to herself what no one else has been able to do—destroy her. Though the war was over, the battle was not. Bitterness, rancor and anger were still at a fever pitch in this country. But Lincoln knew something that Jesus will teach us today, and that is that the only salve that can cure the wound of bitterness between enemies is the salve of love. But this is more than just an ordinary love. It is a super-ordinary, supernatural love that loves the absolutely unlovable. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

9) “Michael Whitman is no friend of mine.” Toward the end of the Revolutionary War, a turncoat traitor, named Michael Whitman, was captured. At his trial it was proven that he had given the British army invaluable assistance on numerous occasions. He was found guilty of spying and sentenced to death by hanging. Michael Whitman was from a town called Ephrata. Word got back to that town of his imprisonment and impending execution. There was a Baptist preacher who also lived in that town whose name was Peter Miller. He heard about Michael Whitman’s plight and walked 70 miles in the cold and the snow to Philadelphia to see George Washington. George Washington and Peter Miller were very close friends. Miller had done a great many favors for the army; he had given them spiritual nourishment and emotional strength during difficult times. When he came in to see George Washington he said, “General, I have a favor to ask of you.” Washington said, “What is it?” He said, “I have come to ask you to pardon Michael Whitman.” George Washington was stunned. He said, “Pastor Miller, that’s impossible. Whitman has done everything in his power to betray us, even offering to join the British and help destroy us. I cannot be lenient with traitors, and for that reason I cannot pardon your friend.” Peter Miller said, “Friend! He’s no friend of mine. He’s the bitterest enemy I’ve ever had in my life. For years he persecuted me and harassed me. He did everything he could to hurt my Church and to hinder the preaching of the Gospel. He even waited for me one time after Church and beat me almost senseless, spitting in my face, knowing full well I would not strike him back.” He said, “General, let’s get this straight—Michael Whitman is no friend of mine.” George Washington was puzzled. He said, “But you asked me to pardon him.” He said, “I have, and I ask you to do it to me as a personal favor.” He said, “Why?” He said, “Because that’s exactly what Jesus has done for you and for me.” With tears in his eyes, George Washington walked into the next room and soon returned with a paper on which was written the pardon of Michael Whitman. Peter Miller went personally with him to the stockade, saved Michael Whitman from the hangman’s noose, and personally took him back to his own home where he led him to Faith in Jesus Christ. Peter Miller was right. What he did for Michael Whitman, Jesus Christ has done for us, and on the cross, He spoke to us as we should speak to others: “With malice toward none; with charity toward all.” Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

10) “Get in or I’ll blow your head off.” Susan Apointe was getting out of her car at a grocery store when a parolee from the state prison stuck a gun in her face and said, “Get in or I’ll blow your head off.” Susan got back in the car but immediately said, “In the name of Jesus you are not going to blow my head off. Jesus loves you and I don’t hate you.” The man wanted money for his sick daughter so Susan wrote a check for $600 and went by the bank and cashed it. He also complained of unemployment so Susan suggested he apply at Sears where she worked. Downtown by now, Susan told him to take her car, she would catch the bus and with that he leaped from the car and walked away. Susan used the information to help police put him back in prison. But she said, “I pray for him every day. He has already had a brush with the word of God; he was sitting on my Bible the whole time!” Was Susan Apointe extraordinarily Christian or simply crazy? We can decide for ourselves in the light of Sermon on the Mount. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

11) “We’ve got to unload all of this.” According to an A.P. account, in September 1994, Cindy Hartman of Conway, Arkansas, walked into her house to answer the phone and was confronted by a burglar. He ripped the phone cord out of the wall and ordered her into a closet. Hartman dropped to her knees and asked the burglar if she could pray for him. “I want you to know that God loves you and I forgive you,” she said. The burglar apologized for what he had done. Then he yelled out the door to a woman in a pickup truck: “We’ve got to unload all of this. This is a Christian home and a Christian family. We can’t do this to them.” As Hartman remained on her knees, the burglar returned furniture he had taken from her home. Then he took the bullets out of his gun, handed the gun to Hartman, and walked out the door. (PreachingToday.com) Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

12) “Are you the guy who’s always yelling at me?” Former Boston Red Sox Hall-of-Fame third baseman Wade Boggs hated Yankee Stadium. Not because of the Yankees; they never gave him that much trouble but because of a fan. That’s right: one fan. The guy had a box seat close to the field, and when the Red Sox were in town, he would torment Boggs by shouting obscenities and insults. It’s hard to imagine one fan getting under a player’s skin, but this guy had the recipe. One day as Boggs was warming up, the fan began his routine, yelling, ‘Boggs, you stink,’ and variations on that theme. Boggs had enough. He walked directly over to the man, who was sitting in the stands…and said, ‘Hey fella, are you the guy who’s always yelling at me? The man said, ‘Yeah, it’s me. What are you going to do about it?’ Wade took a new baseball out of his pocket, autographed it, tossed it to the man, and went back to the field to his pre-game routine. The man never yelled at Boggs again; in fact, he became one of Wade’s biggest fans at Yankee Stadium. “Love your enemies,” Jesus advises us. It might change them, and we know it will change you. (PreachingToday.com). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

13) Should I forgive? On February 6, 1995 our daughter was shot to death by her former boyfriend, the father of her youngest child. At that time, the child was one year old. Our daughter was the mother of four young boys that her father and I now raise.  We feel blessed, but I still have days when anger is at the top of my list of emotions. The issues that our grandsons deal with are tenfold. The father of the two oldest has never consoled them and the seventeen-year-old is trying to put his life together from scattered pieces. I think he will manage but it is painful for him. The next to the oldest misses his mother so deeply and he is very good about expressing it. He is growing in awareness and self-worth and will be fine. We have just learned that the third from the oldest has a different father than the oldest two boys. This came to be a great struggle to explain but we are moving on with this too. The youngest child is so full of words that wake you up and teach you what love is and where it truly comes from. From shattered lives you can find peace, hope, promise and great spiritual growth if you learn not to forget but to forgive, and to keep things honest, and not hide, but work with all aspects of the trauma. You must forgive yourself, and know that healing takes individual time, and there is no finish line, but a path that has twists and turns that may lead you up and down. When you’re up, share what you have learned. When you’re down, learn what you can” (http://www.forgiving.org). There is no doubt that many people in our society have suffered tremendously.  But we must not live our lives filled with hate.  Jesus calls us to forgive our enemies. Gaze upon the Crucified and listen to his first of the seven words from the Cross: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

14) A murderer was gassed. The warden left the death chamber and walked through the jail. A convict shouted, “Who’s the murderer now?” An ABC News Poll says that almost 80% of Americans support capital punishment. 42% of that number says that they seek revenge for deeds done by the criminals. But Jesus in today’s Gospel asserts that retaliation and revenge are not Christian. (Fr. James Gilhooley). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

15) Forgiveness of St. Maria & Assunta Goretti: St. Maria Goretti, known affectionately to her family and friends as Marietta, was born in Italy in the year 1890 into a poor family near Nettuno, 20 miles outside of Rome. In response to Maria’s repeated refusals of his indecent overtures, on that fateful day July 5, 1902, the frustrated Alessandro was to stab Maria 14 times, causing her to suffer an agonizing death. She succumbed the next day because of her wounds. She had repeatedly warned Alessandro he was risking eternal damnation. As she lay dying, when the parish priest of Nettuno brought her Holy Viaticum and asked whether she forgave Alessandro, she replied, “Yes, I forgive him and want him to be in Paradise with me some day.” Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

After 27 years of imprisonment, Alessandro was released. He was spared 3 years of confinement due to being a model prisoner. After various wanderings as a farm laborer, he was to spend the rest of his life living in a Capuchin monastery at Macerata. There the good Capuchins called him “brother.”

In the chapel of the monastery Alessandro was able to attend daily Mass and to find peace and solitude. He was to visit Assunta Goretti, whom he had last seen 31 years before at his trial. He begged Assunta’s forgiveness. She placed her hands on his head, caressed his face and gently said, “Alessandro, Marietta forgave you, Christ has forgiven you, and why should I not also forgive? I forgive you, of course, my son! Why have I not seen you sooner? Your evil days are past, and to me, you are a long-suffering son.” (DiDonato, p. 142). “The next morning people in the village of Corinaldo witnessed what could only happen among the poor of Christ. Assunta Goretti, with head held high and tears falling, took Alessandro Serenelli by the hand as a mother takes a son, and led him to Mass. At the altar rail side by side, she and he- he who had killed her daughter- raised their open mouths to partake of the flesh and blood of Jesus.” (DiDonato, pages 142-146) From that time he was welcomed in that profoundly Christian family of the Gorettis as “Uncle Alessandro”. Alessandro would testify at length at the canonical process for the beatification of Maria Goretti- the only witness who could detail what had actually happened in a brutal murder. He died at the age of 89 after a long life of prayer and penance in expiation of his crime, always invoking the intercession of St. Maria Goretti as his “protector.” It was a remarkable scene on June 24, 1950 at the canonization of St. Maria Goretti in the open Piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. “Never before had a million souls come to St. Peter’s Basilica all at one time, nor in Catholic history had there ever been present at the ceremony of canonization the mother of the Saint.” (DiDonato) (http://www.mariagoretti.org/likoudisarticle2.htm) Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

16) “That was for me.” One day, Mother Teresa was asking a baker for some bread to feed the hungry children in her orphanage. The baker was furious with her request for free bread. Not only did he turn her down, he spat at her. In response to his outrageous actions, Mother Teresa calmly reached deep into her pocket, took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit off and said “That was for me; now what about some bread for my poor children?” The baker was touched by Mother Teresa’s love and greatness, complied and thereafter provided bread for the children in the orphanage. (http://baselearning.blogspot.com/2007/07/inspirational-lesson-learned-from.html) Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

17) Cardinal Van Thuan Confuses His Guards with Christ’s love: Cardinal Francis Xavier Van Thuan spent 14 years in prison in Communist Viet Nam. They arrested and even tortured him, trying to get him to give up his Catholic Faith. But instead, he chose to live his Faith passionately, even in prison, work camps, and solitary confinement. Here is how he describes what happened. “In the beginning, the guards did not talk to me. I was terribly sad. I wanted to be kind and polite with them, but it was impossible. They avoided speaking with me. One night a thought came to me: ‘Francis, you are still very rich. You have the love of Christ in your heart; love them as Jesus has loved you.’ The next day I started to love them even more, to love Jesus in them, smiling and exchanging kind words with them. I began to tell them stories of my trips abroad, of how people live in America, in Canada, in Japan, in the Philippines… about economics, about freedom, about technology. This stimulated their curiosity and they began asking me many questions. Little by little we became friends. They wanted to learn foreign languages, French, English… And my guards became my students! [In the interest of time, you may want to include only one of the following anecdotes.] Cardinal Van Thuan’s truly Christ-like approach to his relationship with his atheist, Communist guards, led to some remarkable experiences. The Cardinal describes how one guard agreed to let him make a wooden cross for himself even though it was severely forbidden to have any religious signs at all. When the guard at first objected, the Cardinal answered, “I know, but we are friends, and I promise to keep it hidden.” So, the guard walked away and let the Cardinal make his cross. In another prison, Cardinal Van Thuan asked another guard, who had also become his friend, for some electrical wire. Here is how the conversation went: The guard, frightened, answered: “I learned at the Police Academy that when someone asks for electrical wire it means they want to kill themselves!” “Catholic priests don’t commit suicide.” “But what do you want to do with electrical wire?” “I would like to make a chain to carry my cross.” “How can you make a chain with electrical wire?  It’s impossible.” “If you bring me two small pincers, I’ll show you.” “It’s too dangerous!” “But we’re friends!” Three days later the guard brought the wire and the pincers and together they made a chain for his cross – the atheist Communist police officer helping the imprisoned bishop with his vestments. That’s the power of Christ-like love, the love we are all called to live. (Taken from “Testimony of Hope”.] E- Priest Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

18) St. Pachomius Gets Inspired: St. Pachomius [pah-COMB-ee-uhs] lived in the 300s, in Egypt. He was a truly amazing saint, a real volcano of activity and holiness.  In gratitude for the grace of Baptism, he retreated into the deserts of Egypt and apprenticed himself to a hermit in order to learn how best to serve God.  Together they lived alarmingly austere lives – sleeping sitting up, never eating a full meal, frequently praying and working all night long. This was their strategy for mastering their sinful tendencies and putting their whole heart, mind, and strength into loving God. One day Pachomius had a vision of an angel instructing him to build a monastery on the banks of the Nile.  He obeyed, and soon a trickle of followers filled the few cells, followed by more and more men who felt called to give their lives to penance and prayer.  Soon he founded other monasteries, wrote a series of guidelines for monastic life, and inspired countless other Christians with his humility, patience, and miracles.  By the time he died while serving the sick in an epidemic, his nine monasteries housed over 3,000 monks, and the monastic movement, which has ever since been filling the world with holiness and wisdom, was under way. But the most interesting thing about the spiritual life of St. Pachomius is its beginning. His remarkable career of holiness began with a simple act of Christian charity. Before his Baptism, Pachomius had been drafted into the imperial army. As he and the other recruits were being transported down the Nile under horrific conditions, a group of Egyptian Christians gave them food, fresh clothing, and other necessities. Pachomius never forgot this, and as soon as his military service was over, he went to the nearest Christian church in order to be baptized. A few Christians going out of their way to share the light of Christ with some pagan soldiers lit a fire of love in the heart of St. Pachomius that is still warming this cold world today. Christ-like love is about giving, not getting – that’s what will change this world. (Details taken from taken from Catholic.net’s Daily Saints) (E- Priest). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

19) “Be Holy for I your God am holy!” Lutz Long was one of the best German athletes and a favorite of Adolf Hitler. During the long-jump trial, he broke several Olympic records. The only other person who could beat him was Jesse Owens. Hitler hated the black athlete and moved out of the pavilion when Jesse recorded his trial. Jesse was upset with the treatment of Hitler. He fouled his first trial and failed to qualify in the second trial. There was only one last chance to redeem himself. At that moment Jesse felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Lutz Long his competitor. He advised him to draw a line a few inches short of the take off. Jesse followed the advice of his opponent. He succeeded and qualified for the event. From that moment onwards a bond of friendship developed between the two athletes.  Later on, Jesse had to compete with Lutz and won against his advisor. Jesse went on to win three gold medals. Hitler looked at the black athlete with anger and contempt, but Lutz held his hand and praised him for his achievement. Lutz, an ordinary athlete not only followed the law but went beyond the law. He practiced the law of love against his opponent. – All of us need a transformation! The world needs to change. Only true charity and forgiveness can bring about this change. That was what Jesus meant when he prayed, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” The specialty of Christian love is not mere forgiveness but love that transforms enemies. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

20) “What you do to the least, you do to me!” Travelling during his term as Vice President, Thomas Jefferson requested a room at Baltimore’s principal hotel. The Vice President was travelling alone, without secretary or servant; it had been a long day and it showed in his clothes and appearance. The proprietor, not recognizing his distinguished guest, refused him a room. After Mr. Jefferson left, the proprietor learned that he had just turned from his establishment the Vice President of the United States. The horrified proprietor immediately sent his servants to find Mr. Jefferson and offered him whatever accommodation he wished. A servant found the Vice President at a small inn where he had taken a room for the night. Mr. Jefferson sent the servant back to the hotel’s proprietor with this message: “Tell your master I value his good intentions highly, but if he has no room for a dirty farmer, he shall have none for this Vice president.” – Jesus is in the least and shabbiest person, especially if we consider that person our enemy. (Gerard Miller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

21) Loving ones enemies actually works! For twenty-eight years, Nelson Mandela was locked away in prison in South Africa. His children were kicked out of school and prevented from getting jobs. It would have been easy for Nelson Mandela to walk out of his prison cell, a seething cauldron of revenge. But Mandela tells how after he was put in jail, he knew he had to make a decision. As he saw it, he could either spend his time in jail hating all the people who put him there, or he could choose something else. He chose instead to respect those he came into contact with each day, and it made all the difference in the world. And because of the suffering he endured and his ability to forgive his enemies, Mandela gained a great deal of moral authority that enabled him to lead his country peacefully out of apartheid when almost everyone had anticipated a bloodbath. At his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa, one of those prison guards was Mandela’s special guest. Mandela found that loving one’s enemies actually works. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

22) “Love your enemies and pray for them.” In the film “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Gregory Peck plays the part of a white lawyer defending a black man accused (wrongly, as it turns out) of rape. One day one of the white townspeople comes up to Peck and spits in his face to express his disgust at a white man defending a “nigger” who raped a white woman. Peck stands there dignified and silent and slowly wipes the spit from his cheek. He says nothing; he does nothing. But it is clear which of the two men has lost his dignity. (And, of course, it turns out that it was a white man who raped the girl.) Fr. Eugene Lobo S.J. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

23) You are forgiven: The Caliph Hassan, successor to Mohammed, was one day at table when a slave accidentally dropped a dish of meat severely burning the Caliph. Frightened for his life, the slave fell on his knees before his Lord and repeated these words of their spiritual book, “Paradise is for those who control their anger.” “I am not angry with you,” replied the Caliph. “And for those who forgive offences,” the slave went on. “I forgive you,” added the Caliph. “But above all for those who return good for evil,” said the slave. To this the Caliph declared, “I set you at liberty and give you ten gold coins.” (J. Maurus in A Source Book of Inspiration). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

24) Revenge beyond limit: In the winter of 326 BC, Alexander personally led a campaign against the clans of the Assakenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys. A fierce contest ensued. The Assakenoi fought bravely and offered stubborn resistance to Alexander in the strongholds of Massaga. The fort of Massaga could only be reduced after several days of bloody fighting in which Alexander himself was wounded seriously in the ankle. Alexander and his army took revenge for the wound he suffered by slaughtering the entire population of the city. Not being satisfied with that, they reduced its buildings to rubbles. Since the revenge often surpassed the offense, ancient legal systems had formulas that were applied to specific crimes, laws that prescribed punishments equal to the offenses. A common expression was: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” We find another one of those formulas expressed in the Book of Genesis where in Chapter 9 we read: If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed… (Genesis 9:6). Jesus’ audience was familiar with that system of retribution, and they accepted it as the best means of ensuring justice. So, the words of Jesus, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” must have sounded strange in their ears. In contemporary history, too, we find instances, where revenge was hundreds of times greater than that of the offense. In 1940, during the Second World War, a British bombing mission had struck Berlin – ostensibly by mistake. To take revenge on this Hitler ordered London to be targeted. Thus, civilian bombing of London began, causing the death of thousands, and spreading misery to many. The history of the recent past is full of incidents of massacre, prompted by individuals or nations. Hence, the words of Jesus, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” must sound strange in our ears, too. (Fr. Bobby Jose). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

25) What We Grab Also Grabs Us: Once there was an eagle which hovered over a lake and suddenly swooped down and caught a two-foot long fish in its talons. Slowly, the bird rose with its ten-pound catch, but when it reached about 1,000 feet, it began to descend, until it splashed into the water. Later, both the bird and fish were found dead. Apparently, the fish was too heavy for the eagle, but it could not let go, for its talons were embedded in the flesh of the fish. The truth is that what we grab, grabs us. When we grab alcohol, drugs, or sex, it grabs us and brings us down to death. (John Brokhoff, Old Truths for New Times, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.) Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

26) Going Beyond Duty: The Second Mile: Shortly after the battles ended the American Revolution, but before the peace had been negotiated, George Washington was with his troops in Newburgh, New York. But they began to grow very restless because they hadn’t been paid. Washington had begged the Continental Congress to do what they said they would do and pay the soldiers, but they refused. Well, some of the officers began to organize a rebellion. They talked about marching on Philadelphia, which was at that time the seat of the reigning national government and overthrowing that government and letting the army rule the nation. With the fate of America in the balance, George Washington made a surprise appearance before these officers. After praising them for their service and thanking them for their sacrifice, he pulled from his pocket a copy of a speech that he wished to read. But then he fumbled with a paper and finally reached for a set of reading glasses-glasses those men had never seen him wear before. Washington made this simple statement: “I have already grown grey in the service of my country, and now I am going blind.” Historian Richard Norton Smith wrote: “Instantly rebellion melted into tears. It was a galvanizing moment, and the rebellion…” was put down because they had seen before them a second-miler. Becoming a Christian is one thing; being a Christian is another one. Every chance you get for the glory of Jesus, for the goodness of others, and because of the grace of God, go the second mile. (James Merritt, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com) Fr. Tony Kayala. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

27) “I forgive you,” Immaculée Ilibagiza was born in a small village in Rwanda, Africa. In 1994, when she was home on spring break, the Hutu president of Rwanda was assassinated, and the country was swept by reprisals against the Tutsi’s, her tribe (source https://www.immaculee.com/pages/about and her book, Left to Tell). Armed Hutu men went from house to house, slaughtering every Tutsi they found. Immaculée fled to the local pastor’s house, and to avoid being murdered, she had to hide in a 3 x 4-foot bathroom for 91 days with seven other women. As she endured this, she also felt anger and resentment destroying her and started praying the rosary: “I said the Lord’s Prayer hundreds of times, hoping to forgive the killers who were murdering all around me. It was no use-every time I got to the part asking God to ‘forgive those who trespass against us,’ my mouth went dry. I couldn’t say the words because I didn’t truly embrace the feeling behind them. My inability to forgive caused me even greater pain than the anguish I felt in being separated from my family, and it was worse than the physical torment of being constantly hunted.” When she finally left that bathroom, she learned that all her family, with the exception of one brother studying abroad, had been murdered. A million people had been massacred. After the genocide, she was shown led to the man, now in prison, who had murdered her mother and brother. He had been one of her neighbors, and the prison staff was prepared to kill him on her behalf. When she’d been in that bathroom, she had imagined killing the Hutus who had done so much evil. Despite all she had suffered, she simply said, “I forgive you,” and walked away. Through her prayer, she had triumphed over her anger and resentment and found God. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

28) “It was easy. I just kept my eyes fixed on the lightening rod:” It was winter and it had snowed heavily. A group of children were trying to see who could make the straightest track across a snowy field. Only one of them succeeded in making a path which was almost perfectly straight. When asked how he managed to do it, he said, It was easy. I just kept my eyes fixed on the lightening rod on top of the barn at the end of the field – while the rest of you kept looking at your feet.” The First Reading of today from the Book of Leviticus asserts that God alone is the source of all holiness and in order to strive towards holiness, our eyes are always to be fixed upon Him. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

29) “But trifles make perfection, perfection is no trifle.” The great sculptor, Michelangelo, was at work on one of his statues when a friend called on him and said – “I can’t see any difference in the statue since I came here a week ago. Have you not been doing any work all the week?” “Yes! I have been working the whole week along, “said the sculptor – “See, I have retouched this part, softened this feature, strengthened this muscle, and put more life into that limb.” “But those are only trifles,” said the friend. “True, “said Michelangelo, “but trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.” Today’s Gospel passage concludes with Jesus saying, “Be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

30) Brush-back pitch: In baseball there is such a thing as a brush-back pitch. A pitcher throws a 90-mile-per-hour fastball at a batter, forcing him to back off the plate, making him less willing to stand firm in the batter’s box and wait for the right pitch. When a brush-back pitch is thrown, there is a clear expectation that the opposing pitcher will throw another one in retaliation. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

31) Imperial revenge: In the winter of 326 BC, Alexander personally led a campaign against the clans of the Assakenoi of the Swat and Buner valleys. A fierce contest ensued. The Assakenoi fought bravely and offered stubborn resistance to Alexander in the strongholds of Massaga. The fort of Massaga could only be reduced after several days of bloody fighting in which Alexander himself was wounded seriously in the ankle. Alexander and his army took revenge for the wound he suffered by slaughtering the entire population of the city. Not being satisfied with that, they reduced its buildings to rubbles. Since the revenge often surpassed the offense, ancient legal systems had formulas that were applied to specific crimes, laws that prescribed punishments equal to the offenses. A common expression was: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” We find another one of those formulas expressed in the Book of Genesis where in Chapter 9 we read: If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed… (Genesis 9:6). Jesus reverses this concept with his teaching on the Sermon on the mount, I say to you: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Never try to get revenge…if your enemy is hungry you should give him food, and if he is thirsty, let him drink….resist evil and conquer it with good.” (Rom 12:19-21). (Fr. Bobby Jose). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

32) Poison tree: In the poem, “Poison Tree” William Blake gives a moral lesson of great importance. He compares anger and hatred to a poison tree.

I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears, Night and morning with my tears;

And I sunned it with smiles, And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night, Till it bore an apple bright.

And my foe beheld it shine. And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole, When the night had veiled the pole;

In the morning glad I see My foe outstretched beneath the tree. (Fr. Bobby Jose). Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

33) It was but a sunny smile: Fr. Faber in a booklet on kindness has a poem which we could all learn and practice with great profit for ourselves and for a neighbor in need of kindness. He says:

“It was but a sunny smile,
And little it cost in the giving,
But it scattered the night like the morning light
And made the day worth living.

It was but a kindly word,
A word that was lightly spoken,
et not in vain for it chilled the pain
Of a heart that was nearly broken.

It was but a helping hand,
And it seemed of little availing,
But its clasp was warm, it saved from harm

A brother whose strength was failing.”

Try the sunny smile of true love, the kindly word of Christian encouragement, the helping hand of true charity, and not only will you brighten the darkness and lighten the load of your brother but you will be imitating in your own small way the perfect Father of love who is in heaven. (Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan, O.F.M.) Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

34) Assunta Goretti with Alessandro, her daughter St. Maria Goretti’s killer. St. Maria Goretti at 12 heroically resisted the attempt of her neighbor Alessandro to rape her and died of 14 stab wounds in the hospital. She was canonized by Pope XII with a record number of 500.000 people in attendance. After 27 years in prison, Alessandro came to Maria Goretti’s mother Assunta Goretti at Christmas night asking for forgiveness.  She granted him unconditional forgiveness, fed him, gave him new cloths and took him for the Christmas midnight Mass. He later became a Franciscan lay brother, spending his time in prayer as a gardener. Assuntha practiced what Jesus teaches in today’s gospel. Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

35) Present-day challenges and demands of Christian holiness: The following story gives insight into the present-day challenges and demands of Christian holiness (cf. Carolyn Thompson, “Bullying Victim Is Still Teaching Kindness” in Fresno Bee, June 30, 2013, p. E1-E2). After being gifted a life-changing sum following a school bus bullying episode seen around the world a year ago, former bus monitor Karen Klein says she really hasn’t changed much. Sure, the “Today” show mug she drinks coffee from reminds her of the widespread media attention her story brought, and the occasional stranger wants to snap her picture. She’s also retired – something the 69-year-old widow couldn’t afford before. But Klein, who drove a school bus for 20 years before spending three years as a monitor, remains as unassuming as she was before learning firsthand how the kindness of strangers can trump the cruelty of four adolescent boys. “It’s really amazing”, Klein said at her suburban Rochester home, still perplexed at the outpouring unleashed by a 10-minute cell phone video of her being ridiculed, sworn at and threatened by a group of seventh-graders last June. They poke at her hearing aid and call her names as she tries to ignore them. “Unless you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, Klein says calmly a few minutes in. One boy taunts, “You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you.” Klein’s oldest son committed suicide more than a decade ago. The video, recorded by a fellow student, was posted online and viewed more than 1.4 million times on YouTube. When 25-year old Canadian Max Sidorov was moved to take up an online collection to send her on vacation, more than 32,000 people from 84 countries responded pledging $703,873 in donations. “It’s just the way it hits them, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know”, Klein said, still unsure of why it all happened. Sidorov called it “ridiculously more than I expected.”Klein used $100,000 as seed money for the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation, which has promoted its message of kindness at concerts and through books. Most recently, the foundation partnered with the Moscow Ballet to raise awareness of cyber-bullying as the dance company tours the United States and Canada … Klein has been to Boston, Toronto and other cities to promote her foundation. She participated in a WNBA anti-bullying event with the New York Liberty in Newark, New Jersey … “There’s a lot of nice people out there; I have learned that”, Klein said, and to ignore the negative people. (…) Klein has met with one of the boys who bullied her. He and his parents came to her home to apologize. The other three sent typed apologies, which she said struck her as less sincere. “I hope they learned a lesson. They probably didn’t,” Klein says, shrugging. “It might have been a big joke to them.”(Lectio Divina) Fr. Kadavil (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 18) by Fr. Tony Kadavil: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and  the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text. for a full version Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony or under CBCI for my website version.  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604