Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
Feb. 20: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
The second reading echoes the same theme as Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are the temple of God. In the Old Testament the Temple was the place where the divine presence dwelt. Now, in the age of the Church, the Holy Spirit dwells among his people, animating each member and the whole body together.
The Gospel reading continues the Sermon on the Mount. The passage this week culminates with the call to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The perfection of charity is the highest Christian virtue, to which all the baptized are called. Such charity goes beyond the love of neighbor to include even one’s enemies. The teachings of Jesus build on the foundation laid by Moses. The word of God which spoke to the people at Mount Sinai now speaks in a new and definitive way in Jesus Christ.
Key verse: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “’All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.’ Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called ‘mystical’ because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments—‘the holy mysteries’—and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity” (No. 2013-2014).
Pope Benedict XVI: “By receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ we become sharers in the divine life in an ever more adult and conscious way. Catholic doctrine affirms that the Eucharist, as the sacrifice of Christ, is also the sacrifice of the Church and thus of all the faithful. This insistence on sacrifice—‘making sacred’—expresses all the existential depth implied in the transformation of our human reality as taken up by Christ” (Sacrament of Charity, 70).
Life application: The word “perfect” (Gk: teleios) refers to the end or purpose of a thing. One of the most frequently quoted passages from Vatican II says: “Christ fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. He who is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col 1:15) is himself the perfect man” (Gaudium et Spes 22). Life in Christ begins at baptism and is nourished by the sacraments. The goal is to attain spiritual maturity and our true end, which is the perfection of charity.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. For information on subscribing to "Breaking Open the Word, click here. For archives click here.