Nobody’s perfect. That’s a truth that the whole world agrees with…except for Jesus. Jesus actually instructed us to be perfect as if he totally expected us to just go ahead and do it. It’s not really a stretch, either, because we are all temples of the Holy Spirit–it’s built right into us. And, because God is so good, God gives us easy instructions to follow to make us perfect.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-22
Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
The Book of Leviticus is a Law book; it contains loads and loads of Laws that the Jewish people were expected to follow; and it covered pretty much every situation that might arise in anyone’s life. In today’s reading, God tells us to be holy because God is holy. God gives us himself as a model for what holiness looks like, and it looks like someone who is kind, merciful and forgiving. Even when we have to correct someone, we should not get caught up in negative feelings about them, don’t hold grudges and don’t try and get revenge. God forgives us, and expects us to act toward others the way God acts toward us.
St. Paul doesn’t just stop at the idea that we should imitate God, but that each of us is a temple of God’s Spirit; that God lives and breathes in us. If we have God inside of us, and we do, then we can rely on God for help when it’s time to do something difficult like forgive someone who has hurt us. We can ask God to help us love that person with God’s heart, not relying entirely on our own strength. God loves to do that for us. And, since we are children of God, everything God has, God gives to us, so we never have to be afraid that we don’t have what it takes to do hard things.
Jesus, continuing to break open the Commandments as he has been doing in our readings over the past few weeks, tells us that “an eye for an eye” isn’t going to cut it anymore–we know God too well to stop there. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and give people more than they ask of us. As Jesus says, even people who don’t know God love people who are nice to them; and we know way better. We have been forgiven, loved, and gifted by God, so we have to share that with those who need it. As another very wise person said (which may or may not have been Gandhi), “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
Love your neighbor as yourself means that you should treat people the way you want to be treated. What are some ways that you can treat people the way you want people to treat you?
When the “eye for an eye” law came out, it was a huge advancement–before that the punishment didn’t necessarily fit the crime. If a family member was killed by someone from another clan, your clan might go and kill everyone in the other family to get revenge. An eye for an eye meant the punishment should be equal to the crime committed, and it was instituted because the Jewish people knew that God is justice, so they tried to make their laws more just. Jesus took away our punishment on the cross. Because of that, we know that God’s idea of justice means mercy and forgiveness. Are you more of an “eye for an eye” person, or a mercy and forgiveness person? Which is better, and why? How do you like to be treated when you do something wrong?
Do you sometimes find it difficult to love people who are unkind to you? How do you overcome it? Is there anyone in your life who is an occasion of sin for you because of your negative feelings for you? What is one practical thing you can do to help you in this situation?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”