Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 19, 2017 – Year A
Readings: Lv 19:1-2, 17-18 / Ps 103 / 1 Cor 3:16-23 / Mt 5:38-48
by Rev. Paul O’Donnell Duggan, Guest Celebrant
One of my little peculiarities is that I enjoy walking through a graveyard and looking at epitaphs. Every so often I say to people in New Jersey, “Oh, in today’s reading, there is a lovely epitaph.”
There’s a wee line from opening remarks of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger when he had just been appointed Pope Benedict XVI, when he spoke from the balcony. He said, “God has elected me through the cardinals.” And this is the line that would be a wonderful epitaph on a tombstone: “A simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.” That wouldn’t be a bad epitaph for anybody – a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.
From today’s first reading, “Be holy, for I am holy.” That could be placed on a tombstone after a person’s name, in quotation marks, to indicate that that was his aim in life – to be holy. “Take no revenge” would also be a good one. Another one could come from today’s psalm response, “The Lord is kind and merciful.” That would be a wonderful epitaph, indicating that’s what I want to be – I want to be kind like the Lord, and I want to be merciful. It’s good to have something on a tombstone other than just the bare facts.
There’s one wee line in the first reading – just three words – that would be a great epitaph that I wanted to share with you this morning.
One of the most common questions that I am asked, when people find out that I am from a large family, is whether I had a favorite. And the answer is, “Yes, of course.” Jesus had his favorites – Peter, James, and John. My favorite brother is Frank. And not because he and I were the first brothers ordained by Pope Paul VI, since Jesus ordained Peter and Andrew and James and John at the first Mass. That’s not the reason he’s my favorite brother.
He’s my favorite brother because sometimes I say things to him that hurt him. Nine times out of ten, I don’t say them deliberately. It can be awkward and difficult. But his response to my negativity is the words in today’s first reading: “Cherish no grudge.” No matter what I say to Father Frank, no matter how much I put him down, no matter how cruel I can be to him, either in words or in deeds, he never holds a grudge. It’s phenomenal. So when I’m asked which is my favorite brother, it’s always Father Frank because he never cherishes the grudge. Now for me, if something hurts me, it takes me forever to get over it. I nurse the grudge; you will never get better if you nurse the grudge, but I try to follow his example – “Lord, help me.”
So today, dear friends, if you have a grudge against somebody, when you receive Communion, pray “Lord Jesus, give me the grace today to be faithful to Your word, to be true to Your word when you tell me, ‘Cherish no grudge.’” Or if you know someone has a grudge towards you, “Lord, bless that person. Please let him or her let go of the grudge and be well again.”
So this morning as we come rejoicing that God has called us together, “Lord, when we receive you in the Eucharist, give me today the grace not to cherish a grudge, but to forgive the person I have hurt, or who has hurt me.”