During these Sundays of Ordinary Time we are following the great sermon of Jesus on the mount, by the Sea of Galilee, according to the Gospel of Matthew.

Couple Sundays ago we heard Jesus speak of the Beatitudes and how we are to be light and salt for the world. 
Last Sunday we heard a very challenging message based on the commandments: you shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not covet. 
And Jesus insisted that we do not want to get into the eternal fire of Gehenna, therefore we much “cut off” whatever in our lives lead us to sin.

And today we hear about everybody’s favorite topic at a dinner table: our neighbors.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

Well the reality is not that we have heard that this was said, but we all at some point of our lives have practiced the eye for an eye and the tooth for a tooth.
It is so easy to react and pay back for what others have done to us. 

During the Christmas season we have sung the song: 
Let there be peace on earth.
And that song has the key for any pacifist endeavor.
“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me”

“But Father, you don’t understand what they did to me”
- Certainly, I don’t. I can never know the pain of others.
But I do know one thing: violence creates more violence.
For that reason peace always begins with me.

We cannot wait for the others to be in sync. We pray for that day certainly. But if we wait until others change, then the second coming of Christ will arrive first.
“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me”

In that sense the book of Leviticus gives us a lesson of respect for others.

You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.

So here the reading is insisting on not holding hatred, grudges, against our brothers or sisters. 
Even when we disagree with their opinions, and even when we know they may be wrong and far from the truth, even when they hurt us, respect for the person is key!. 
Love the sinner even when we hate the sin. 
And that is so hard!

But what really puts all things in perspective is St. Paul who reminds us that each person is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore when we hold anger against someone, we are angry against a temple of God. 

Pope Francis has insisted on this. 

Ever since the beginning of his pontificate, he has insisted on loving our neighbor with sincerity of heart and deep respect. And by neighbor we mean those close to us and everyone else. 

I am going to ask just few questions to examine our consciences. Because it is needed.

What is my attitude towards people that have a different opinion?
When was the last time I retaliated against someone for something they did to me?
Have I devoured my neighbor through gossip? (and pope Francis has spoken a lot about this issue)
That person that hurt me in my childhood, have I forgiven?
If I am separated. What is my attitude towards my ex spouse?
If I am married. Do I forgive my spouse’s shortcomings daily? or do I keep them burning inside?
Have I experienced racist feelings towards certain groups?
Regarding my brothers and my sisters, with whom I share the same blood line, do I love them truly and deeply?

Someone said to me that hating someone is like drinking poison expecting the other to die. 

Isn't that the truth? Hatred leads nowhere, it only affects us and endangers our spiritual wellbeing.
Now, to raise the bar even higher, in the gospel Jesus even dares to speak of turning the other cheek.

But we have to be careful on how we read that.

Turning the other cheek is not submissive passivity.
Turning the other cheek is actually active non violent resistance. 

When you turn the other cheek to someone, you are mirroring to that person their own disfunctionality.
It’s like saying: “OK, you want me to be mindless and respond to you with the same violence that you inflict upon me, but no! I will not do that! 
You want to live in that world, fine! but I will not.”

That’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross.
He responded to violence with non violence.
He wanted to bring peace to earth. 
And he let it begin with him.

My sisters and brothers, we cannot expect the other to change. The change has to begin with me and no one else. 

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

AuthorFr. Jose Cabrera