Last evening, the UST Director of Campus Ministry, Fr. Erich Rutten, joined us at the Gainey Center to celebrate Mass for the undergraduate students attending the Ignatian Retreat I am giving with several members of the Campus Ministry staff. As always, Fr. Erich’s homily offered much fruit for reflection.
Fr. Erich observed that after enjoying a dinner at the home of friends, we come home and write a short thank you note to our host. However, when we partake of the banquet presided over by Jesus, we don’t get off quite that easily. Partaking in the Eucharistic banquest means entry into a covenantal relationship that demands a much more radical response than a simple thank you note. Our Mass readings for today give flesh to the response that is asked (demanded) of we who participate in the Eucharist.
In the first reading from Leviticus, God instructs the people through Moses, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” In the Gospel from St. Matthew, Jesus instructs his disciples, “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
What does it mean for us to be holy as God is holy? to be perfect as God is perfect? Jesus elucidates in the Gospel, an elucidation that, as Fr. Erith pointed out, is seconded in today’s psalm: The Lord is kind and merciful.
Being holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect, means being kind and merciful. Being kind and merciful, as Jesus explains, means not to return an eye for an eye, but to turn the other cheek. Not to fight over our tunic, but to give over our coat as well. Not to be pressed into one mile, but to voluntarily goe two. Not to hate our enemy, but to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.
Writing a thank you note to someone who has given us a fine feast is easy. A few words written over a few minutes and we are done. But what we commit ourselves to in gratitude and love for the Eucharistic feast we have been given is much more demanding. It demands a complete conversion, but one we undertake with the help of our God.