Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Posted on March 2, 2023 View all Gospel Reflection

What loving your enemies and being ‘perfect’ mean.

In a movie, the character Massala had become Ben Hur’s enemy. Because of Massala’s evil doing, Ben Hur is captured and forced into service in the galley of a slave ship. Meanwhile, Ben Hur’s mother and sister are sent off to prison. Ben Hur loses contact with them and later is told that they are dead. Ben Hur, returns to Israel intent on one thing–revenge. Because of Massala, he has lost everything. And now he lives for one thing, to avenge himself upon Massala. This passion consumes Ben Hur to such an extent that his sweetheart, Esther, looking into his tortured eyes exclaims, “Juda Ben Hur, you have become a Massala.”

A Scripture scholar recounts teaching in a local parish, where a “stereotypical grandmother,” asked if she could actually pray psalms that curse enemies. He responded, ‘You had better.’ God put them there for a reason. Frankly expressing anger is a step towards loving enemies.”

[source: The Gift of Israel’s songs, Jason Byasse, Christian Century, August 26, 2020].

ALL emotions are neutral—there is no such thing as good or bad emotions. In number 1767, the Catholic Catechism says that, “In themselves passions are neither good nor evil.”

Romans, Chapter 12 gives us the remedy for taking on the characteristics an enemy: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…. never avenge yourselves…. If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink… Do not overcome evil by evil but overcome evil with good.”

God loved us while we were his enemies. Romans 5:6-8

Loving means wanting good for them. It’s not how you feel. It’s what you do.

In Matthew 5:46, Jesus warns that those who love only those who love them have no “wage,” because there is no moral superiority to even the lowest of human beings. In contrast, those who love their enemies do have a wage from God and will receive a reward because they are children of the Father and they see their connectedness of everybody in God. The opponent or evil person is seen as symbol of a much greater systemic evil—of which the person is a poor victim of the devil. We aim our efforts at this greater evil, which wants to harm all of us and cast our souls into hell.

Regarding what being ‘perfect’ means, maybe no one wants to work for a perfectionist, but if you’re having surgery, you sure want the doctor to be one.

Being perfect does not mean setting such high standards for yourself at the expense of your wellbeing like excessive checking and list-making, not knowing when to stop, failure to delegate, sticky notes arranged perfectly in rows on your computer monitor.

Being perfect means growing and developing towards maturity—it does not mean the defect of perfectionism.

In every masterfully constructed Persian carpet, the carpet maker includes a deliberate mistake to avoid perfectionism because only God is perfect. The deliberate mistake found on one Persian rug? A five-legged horse—all the other horses have four legs.

It’s Ok to strive for perfection and Jesus commands it. In the professional context, in the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell writes about what he calls the 10,000-hour rule. The rule basically says that it takes around 10,000 hours of practice before somebody becomes an expert at something. He found this to be true anywhere from professional hockey players to tech innovators. How to you get to be the best? It may take 10,000 hours.