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Monday, March 06, 2017

19 February 2017--7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The phrase “dignity of the human person” is one of the fundamental teachings in Catholic Social Teaching. Its basis in the phrase from Genesis that we are made in the “image and likeness of God”. These concepts are explained and expanded by today's readings. First, I'll do a little word play with a key phrase from each of the readings before giving a reflection on the readings themselves.
In today's reading from Leviticus, we are told “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” Now the Hebrew word qadosh or qadesh translated here as “holy” also means “set apart” or “a sanctuary.” So one could interpret this verse as saying “be a sanctuary as your God is a sanctuary.” 

In the second reading Paul asks, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” The Greek word naos refers to Jewish Temple proper, that is, the sanctuary, the place where God dwells and manifests. So this could be interpreted as “Do you now know that you are a sanctuary, where God dwells and is revealed.”

Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect," the gospel tells us. Telios, translated here as perfect, also means complete or whole. In other words “be whole just as God is whole.” The wholeness and completeness of God is unity, harmony and union.

To summarize this wordplay, since we are all made in the image and likeness of God, each one of us is a sanctuary where God dwells and is revealed. The First reading tells us that we may have to correct one another when we go astray but we are not to hate or harbour revenge on one another, that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves.

The Second Reading from 1st Corinthians follows in a similar vein and warns us against destroying God's sanctuaries, that is, each other. Such destruction manifests itself in all forms of injustice. In his book, Globalization, Spirituality and Justice, Daniel Groody attributes the prevalence of injustice to what he calls, money-theism. He writes,

In large part, the root cause of global injustice is anchored in a fundamental theological and anthropological error that has been referred to today as “money-theism.” Money-theism deals with the idolization of capital, expressed as the worship of the gods of the marketplace, and is often practiced through the rituals of the stock market and the liturgies of global capitalism. In this system people are measured in terms of their net worth, accumulated possessions, and incomes rather than their human worth, the quality of their character, and their spiritual depth. The value and worth of human beings have become more and more reduced to a “market fundamentalism,” were the market alone defines what it means to be human.
But the Paul tells us that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.” Gracefully, more and more people are beginning to realize that this desire for more and more and the taking of more and more—from people and more and more from the Earth—must stop. Gracefully also, across religious lines more and more people are beginning to realize that we all belong and to realize our inter-connectedness.

Just in case the people in Jesus' audience, including us, didn't get the message, in today's gospel Jesus makes it clear that it is not only our friends who carry God within them. Our enemies also have God dwelling within them. Bringing it closer to home, G. K. Chesterton says : "We are commanded to love our neighbors and our enemies; they are generally the same people." This is very true for all of us. It is very easy for us to love, in theory, all rich people or all politicians—even Trump and Trudeau, we'll never come in contact with them. They'll never leave dirty dishes in our sink. But it is our neighbors, our friends and acquaintances, those who know our vulnerabilities that can hurt us and thus become our enemies. But Jesus is telling us not to return hurt for hurt.

Jesus is reminding us that each and every one of us is a sanctuary. God is present in every person, regardless of their race, nation, sex, origin, affectional orientation, culture, economic standing, religion or lack thereof. Catholic social teaching asserts that we must love, honour and respect all human beings because within every person is both a reflection of God and a mirror of ourselves. “Be whole just as God is whole” so that by our unity, harmony and union in our diversity, we image the wholeness and completeness of God. Namaste, the Spirit within me honours the Spirit within you.

Please share your thoughts?

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