7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A ~ February 19, 2023
Leaving our Comfort Zone
I would like to share “God’s Cover Letter” written by an unknown author before I share my reflection with you. I believe this is so very important for us to understand that God’s choice for us to attain eternal life and life in abundance is the core of his love which we can see in the Sacred Scripture’s Readings of this week.
“To Whom It May Concern….
I heard you were considering a new manager for your life. I would like to apply for the job.
I believe I am the most qualified candidate applying. I am the only one that has ever done this job successfully. I was the first manager of life. In fact, I made all lives, so naturally I know how humanity works, and what is best to get people back into proper working condition. Hiring me will be exactly like having the manufacturer as your personal mechanic.
If this is your first time considering me, I would just like to point out that my salary has already been paid by my son, Jesus on the cross of Calvary. This salary covers the time prior to my hiring as well as my present and future employment.
If you decide to hire me, I will need to receive from you an acknowledgment that you erred in not hiring me sooner. I understand this is a strange requirement, but since you violated the manufacturer’s warrantee by placing your being under inferior management, this is a necessary prerequisite to my engagement.
Lastly, I will require a carte blanche (a blank cheque) to reorganizing and managing your life. I intend to make some major changes and revisions. They are not for you to worry about. I need your permission to execute these changes, My way and in My time. I will establish new goals and objectives and restructure your life to meet these requirements. Please keep your hands out of the way. Don’t try to help me and don’t resist me and we will get along fine. I really do need your full commitment and cooperation in this. If you give me those, the process of getting your life back to manufacturer’s intentions can go smoothly, without delays. I assure you: you will be pleased with the outcome.
I will require a verbal contract to all these stipulations in the presence of witnesses.
P.S. I created the heavens and the earth. I AM.
BELOW IS MY RESUME…
GOD Everywhere All over, Every Place ~ Phone: (123) 456-PRAY.
EXPERIENCE From the beginning of time. Before the beginning of time. From everlasting to everlasting. I made time.
ABILITY All Powerful
PRIOR EMPLOYMENT Created the universe, put the galaxies in place, formed man. Established heaven and earth by My spoken Word and am currently holding up the world by My power.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING: I AM and I have all knowledge.
CHARACTER REFERENCE: Love, light, and life (1 John 4:16, 1 John 1:5, John 14:6). A representative, but by no means conclusive list of other character traits follows: Wisdom (James 1:5), Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), Truth (John 8:32), Healer (1 Peter 2:24), Strength (Phil. 4:13), Forgiveness (1 John 1:9), Provider (Phil. 4:19), Mercy (Ephesians 2:24), Good (Matthew 19:17), Peace (Romans 14:17).
AVAILABILITY Willing and ready to take over your life. Able to put your life together again. Will bring all of who I AM into your life. Can start now.
SALARY REQUIREMENT: Work in your life has already been paid for through the blood of My Son, Jesus. Your only responsibility is to commit initially and on a daily basis. To trust and obey what Jesus has done and wants to do in your life.
How wonderful it is to read this cover letter in the context of our faith. This is going to be last Sunday in Ordinary time before we begin our Ash Wednesday. As we continue to meditate and reflect on the Word of God given to us everyday and Sundays which will help us to leave our comfort zone and consider the needs of other people.
Last week we reflected on the Sacred Scripture Reading to see how and what we choose to have better life and relationship with the Lord. From the Gospel Reading of last Sunday, we were able to reflect on the words of the Lord “it was said in the ancient times…. but I say to you” were the centre of the whole Gospel as Jesus opened our hearts and minds to see the real meaning and spirit of the Law shaking up our comfort zone. That’s why I have chosen the title for my reflection “Leaving our Comfort Zone” as I strongly believe that it is not easy to practice what the Lord is telling us to practice and do what is needed to be a good disciple of him. Today is the fourth and last part of the chapter 5 of St. Matthew. It started with the beatitudes which helped us to see the clear picture of the qualities or attributes disciples should have to follow Jesus. Then week after we read and heard that Jesus made us to recognize our discipleship by reflecting on the symbols of salt and light of the earth and world which was meant that people should recognize that we follow the Lord. This week we are invited to come out of our comfort zone and do what is important to show to the world that God is love, perfect and holy who is slow to anger and bounding in love. This week as we are going to begin our Lenten journey by being anointed with the ashes to remind us that love and forgiveness is more important than our pride and hate against others.
Why is the Word of God inviting us to reflect on these powerful image/symbols during this week? A life of a disciple is a life of struggle to perfect him or herself everyday of living. God has created humans a little less than angels. What do we need in our life to achieve holiness and perfection? First, as St. Paul says, “don’t you know you are a temple of the Holy Spirit” Secondly, daily reading and reflecting on the Word of God. Thirdly, follow the examples of the apostles and saints who struggled everyday to perfect themselves to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Fourthly, spending time in prayer everyday. Fifthly, sharing our lives with others who are poor, marginalised and rejected.
Once upon a time, a monk was going somewhere. On his way, he saw a merchant going with five donkeys carrying bags which looked too heavy for donkeys to carry. Monk asked merchant, “What have you in these bags, which these poor donkeys are not able to carry?” The merchant replied, “These bags are filled with things of human use. I am going to market to sell these.” Monk said, “what things are filled in these bags?”
Merchant replied, “First donkey you see is loaded with bags of atrocities/torture” Monk asked, “But who will buy this?” Merchant said, “its buyers are ruling people. It is sold at a very high rate”. Monk asked pointing to second donkey, “what is in bags of this donkey?” Merchant replied, “This bag is full of pride…and it’s buyers are scholars”. Merchant continued, “Bags on third donkey contains jealousy and its customers are rich people who can not tolerate other people’s success. Lots of people buy this. Bags on the fourth donkey contain dishonesty. Its customers are those businessmen who make profit by cheating. There are always many buyers ready for this”.
Monk asked, “then what’s loaded on last donkey?” Merchant said, “bags on this donkey are full of fraud and people who do not do any work and do frauds to cheat people, buy this”.
After listening to the merchant, monk realized that it was devil himself, who was spreading evil in the world and his victims become selfish people who feel comfortable and satisfied by cheating other people for their own gain.
What the Sacred Scripture Readings are teaching us today is that we must follow the Lord because he understands us and has the ultimate wisdom to help us to be holy and perfect as our Heavenly Father is. St. Ambrose once said, “Open your lips, and let God’s word be heard” and that’s brings us out of our comfort zone to love and pray for our enemies. We must always meditate on God’s wisdom, keeping it in our hearts and on our lips. Your tongue must speak justice, the law of God must be in your heart. Hence Scripture tells you: You shall speak of these commandments when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down, and when you get up. Let us then speak of the Lord Jesus, for he is wisdom, he is the word, the Word indeed of God. It is also written: Open your lips and let God’s word be heard. God’s word is uttered by those who repeat Christ’s teaching and meditate on his sayings. Let us always speak this word. When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.
Open your lips, says Scripture, and let God’s word be heard. It is for you to open; it is for him to be heard. So, David said: I shall hear what the Lord says in me. The very Son of God says: Open your lips, and I will fill them. Not all can attain to the perfection of wisdom as Solomon or Daniel did, but the spirit of wisdom is poured out on all according to their capacity, that is, on all the faithful. If you believe, you have the spirit of wisdom. Meditate at all times on things of God, and speak things of God, when you sit in your house. By house we can understand the Church, or the secret place within us, so that we are to speak within ourselves. Speak with prudence, to avoid falling into sin, as by excess of talking. When you sit in your house, speak to yourself as if you were a judge. When you walk along the way, speak to never be idle. You speak along the way if you speak in Christ, for Christ is the way. When you walk along the way, speak to yourself, speak to Christ. Hear him say to you: I desire that in every place man should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. When you lie down, speak so that the sleep of death may not steal upon you. Listen and learn how you are to speak as you lie down; I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. When you get up or rise again, speak of Christ, so as to fulfill what you are commanded. Listen and learn how Christ is to awaken you from sleep. Your soul says: I hear my brother knocking at the door. Then Christ says to you: Open the door to me, my sister, my spouse. Listen and learn how you are to awaken Christ. Your soul says: I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, awaken or reawaken the love of my heart. Christ is that love.
Today’s First Reading invites us all to be holy as our Lord God is holy. What does it mean? It means that by becoming holy we walk under the Holy Spirit and all gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to live our lives by leaving comfort zone and believing that God has created us on his own image to be an example of true discipleship. St. Augustine says, “our hearts long for God” which means we are called to do what the Lord is commanding us to do.
From the Gospel today we might think that Jesus’ teaching is a part of a plan; in the end, the wicked will desist. But that is not why Jesus asks us to love even those who do us harm. What, then, is the reason? It is that the Father, our Father, continues to love everyone, even when his love is not reciprocated. The Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”. In today’s first reading, he tells us: “You shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy”. In other words: “Live like me, seek the things that I seek”. And that is precisely what Jesus did. He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists.
If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way; there is no other. Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do. You may well say: “But Jesus goes too far! He even says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. Surely, he speaks like this to gain people’s attention, but he cannot really mean it”. But he really does. Here Jesus is not speaking in paradoxes or using nice turns of phrase. He is direct and clear. He quotes the ancient law and solemnly tells us: “But I say to you: love your enemies”. His words are deliberate and precise.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. That’s coming out of our comfort zone. It is the Christian difference. Pray and love: this is what we must do; and not only with regard to those who love us, not only with regard to our friends or our own people. The love of Jesus knows no boundaries or barriers. The Lord demands of us the courage to have a love that does not count the cost. Because the measure of Jesus is love without measure. How many times have we neglected that demand, behaving like everyone else! Yet his commandment of love is not simply a challenge; it is the very heart of the Gospel. Where the command of universal love is concerned, let us not accept excuses or preach prudent caution. The Lord was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises. He asks of us the extremism of charity. This is the only legitimate kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love. Soon we will begin our Lenten season which invites to repent, pray, fast, and show charity to others. This season is a season of mutual relationship with the Lord who carried our sins upon himself that we may be saved.
Pope St. Clement 1 opens our minds to understand the real meaning of Lent with these words “If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God’s message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people. In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarrelling and jealousy which only lead to death. The Season of Lent to pause a little to see who we are and where are we heading to and return to the Lord “As I live, says the Lord, I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance”. He added this evidence of his goodness: House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, “Father,” I will listen to you as holy people”. Once again St. Pope Clement I says “we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is right and just. Let this season provide us time to pause, see and return our lives to become pleasing to the Lord”.
Are we ready to leave our comfort zone to follow the commandment of the Lord?
Other Sermons In This Series
July 15, 2022
November 10, 2022
February 11, 2022