On the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, the first reading — Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 — gives us some of the background for Jesus’ teaching in the gospel — Matthew 5:38-48. In the gospel, a further excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus continues his expansion of the Old Testament teachings. First, he says it is not enough to limit oneself to demanding no punishment greater than the injury one has suffered. The first reading told us not to seek revenge or hold on to grudges. Jesus tells us not to seek satisfaction for injuries at all. We are to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Then he turns to love of neighbor, which was commanded in the first reading. We are also to love our enemies as well. The first reading said we are to be holy as God is holy. Jesus tells us to be perfect as God is perfect. Of course, we are limited creatures, so our perfection can only be a limited perfection. Furthermore, we can only achieve it with God’s grace, and most of us will finally attain perfection in heaven, after God has removed our lingering imperfections in the cleansing we call Purgatory.
The second reading — 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 — reminds us that God surpasses us and all our attainments, so we have nothing of our own to be proud or self-satisfied about. What is important is that we belong to Christ and to the Father, who gives us all we have.
The Eighth Sunday gives us readings which remind us that we can and should rely on God’s unfailing love for us. In the first reading — Isaiah 49:14-15 — the prophet delivers God’s promise that his love for his people is even more reliable than a mother’s love for her child. The responsorial psalm — verses of Psalm 62 — expresses our confidence in God alone. Jesus, in the gospel, another passage from the Sermon on the Mount — Matthew 6:24-34 — tells us that our confidence in God’s loving care for us should remove all anxiety. The passage contains the familiar examples of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field: God cares for them. It’s not that we don’t need food, drink, and clothing. We need them and even have to expend our own efforts to provide them. God doesn’t provide them miraculously. But we shouldn’t put them at the forefront of our concern. That would amount to serving mammon rather than God. We act prudently every day, dealing with what happens secure in our knowledge that God loves us always.
In the second reading — 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 — St. Paul reminds us that God is judge of all. There are two consequences: we are not to presume to judge other people; and we need to strive to use God’s gifts to us responsibly in his service.
Note: Wednesday, March 1, is Ash Wednesday, so Ordinary Time gives way to Lent and Eastertide. Ordinary Time will resume on Monday, June 5, but the Sunday Masses of Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi will replace those of the 10th and 11th Sundays in Ordinary Time. On June 25 we will have the Mass for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time.