“You shall be a people holy to the Lord your God.”
A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 26:16-19)
Moses spoke to the people, saying: “This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances; you shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared this day concerning the Lord that he is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his ordinances, and will obey his voice; and the Lord has declared this day concerning you that you are a people for his own possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, that he will set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honour, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he has spoken.”
The word of the Lord.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM Psalm 119:1-2.4-5.7-8 (R. 1b)
R/. Blessed are those who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep his decrees!
With all their hearts they seek him. R/.
You have laid down your precepts
to be carefully kept.
May my ways be firm
in keeping your statutes. R/.
I will thank you with an upright heart,
as I learn your just judgements.
I will keep your statutes;
do not ever forsake me. R/.
VERSE BEFORE THE GOSPEL 2 Corinthians 6:2b
Glory and praise to you, O Christ. Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation. Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 5:43-48)
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
The greatest scandal of Christianity today is that the qualities for which that small community at Antioch were given the name “Christian” are no longer found amongst many so called Christian communities today. Basically, there seems to be no line of distinction today between Christians, Non-believers, Agnostics and even Atheists other than the fact that each Sunday, we go to Church.
What made that first community so unique? What earned them the name “Christian”? It was the Christ-like Love that existed among them; a love that is capable of forgiving one’s enemies right on the cross; a love that does not select its beneficiaries; a love that is purely sacrificial not expecting anything in return. In all honesty, the only love found in our so-called Christian communities today is the business love; a love that is purely based on give and take; a love that is concerned only about those who are capable or willing to reciprocate it; a love that demands much more than it gives; a selective love.
We say we are Christians, yet we fight each other just as non-believers do, sometimes even bloodier than non-believers. We drag ourselves to law courts. We even present our cases before traditional rulers some of whom do not share our faith. In truth, if the people of that community at Antioch behaved like us, they wouldn’t have been called Christians but simply church-goers.
What makes us Christians? It is our ability to rise above the traditional church-goer mentality. It is doing more than the tax collectors who love only those that love them. It is doing more than the Gentiles who greet only those that greet them. It is stepping out of the box, is acting in a manner that is really different from what our society regards as normal. It is doing thing just as Jesus would do if He were to walk this earth again.
Being a Christian is practicing what I would call non-selective goodness. It is being kind to people not because they deserve it but because of who you are; a child whose Father does not discriminate who to benefit or not from his rain.