February 23, 2020
The Gospel includes one of the more difficult teachings of Jesus; “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” This teaching went against the mindset of the people during the time of Jesus, as it goes against the common thinking of today. Far too often our society tends to confuse justice with revenge. Justice can include a love for the enemy and even a prayer for them, while revenge stirs up the attitude of hatred toward someone that seems to care little about justice let alone praying for the perpetrator.
God is a just judge who acts out of justice and love, and does not act out of revenge. Revenge leaves no room for reconciliation, while justice seeks reconciliation even as we deal with the consequences of our sins. With God mercy is not a weakness it is a strength we should cultivate in our lives. It is the ability to look beyond the hurts we might have experienced, and to forgive and love. This is difficulty, but possible because God has great expectations for us to do great things.
Throughout the ministry of Jesus we are taught that God looks at us with the eyes of love. The Old Testament begins by telling us that we are created in the image and likeness of God. No other creature can claim that distinction. In the Reading from Leviticus God tells Moses and the people of Israel to be Holy as God is Holy. In the First letter of Paul to the Corinthians he tells us that we are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. These three passages should lift us from feeling that we can do little or nothing with our faith because of our sin to realize that Jesus died because of our sins to free us from them. He is the Word made Flesh who says the word that heals us from sin and makes us worthy to be what God calls us to be. God has not given up on us. He sent Christ to redeem, and the Spirit to sanctify us.
God desires us to have a unique and close relationship with him, and he blesses us with the gifts we need to draw closer to him. As in any true love relationship it is a commitment that opens us up to receive the blessings and gifts God has for us, as well as the desire to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and spirit; even to the point of great sacrifice. In our relationship with God the blessings, gifts, and ultimate reward he extends to us are far greater than any sacrifice we make for him. The gospel today tells us one of the most difficult sacrifices we are called to make; we are to sacrifice ourselves to the point of loving our enemies.
Love of enemies is not an easy teaching and so contrary to our view of justice, but God’s justice involves love, mercy and forgiveness. What place does true, unconditional, Godly love have in our lives? Are we able to sincerely say, “I love——- when speaking of our worse enemy? Are we able to say; “I forgive you” to someone who hasn’t apologized? If we take seriously the message of the scriptures we will answer the call to be holy and recognize that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. we might grow in the ability to sacrifice more to the point that we are able to love everyone, even our enemies.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch (1877)