Gospel LK 6:27-38
This Gospel takes place immediately after Jesus was on a mountain to pray and then chose twelve from among his disciples to be apostles. Together they came down the mountain and began to minister to the crowds who were waiting for Jesus. It is here that he gives what is known as the Sermon on the Plain. It begins with the Beatitudes, and is followed by Jesus’ teaching of Love of Enemies that we heard today.
Love on its’ own has a beautiful and welcoming ring to it. The word itself fills our hearts with warmth at thinking that we are loved, or of someone we love. Jesus, however, speaks of love in a way that we are not accustomed to hearing. His command to us is to Love our enemies. This is something that not only sounds difficult or impossible, but doesn’t seem to make sense. Why should I love my enemies? What good is there in that? What if they don’t accept my love or love me in return? What if they return my love with hatred or revenge? For God the love of enemies makes perfect sense. Jesus answered these questions on the cross where we see and experience what true love is. On the Cross we see that; True love is unconditional; True love is sacrificial; True love is risky.
God’s love for us is unconditional, meaning that he loves us regardless of whether we accept or reject his love. He continually pours out his love on us without any condition. We can chose to accept it and walk with him in our lives, or we can refuse it and live a life without Christ. God continues to love even when someone rejects him. God loves his enemies. On the Cross he forgave those who crucified him, which includes us. Yes, it can be said that we were enemies of God, but in Baptism we became sons and daughters of God. God’s love is beautiful and unique in that there are no conditions attached, all we have to do is accept it.
God’s love is sacrificial. In Old Testament times the Israelites would sacrifice a lamb each year for Passover as a sacrifice for their sins. Jesus is the Lamb of God who was sacrificed once and for all for us. God the Father sent his Son to be that ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins and our salvation. True love involves giving ourselves completely to others, regardless of the Cost. This involves sacrifice. It is the unwillingness of letting go and giving up of self that stands in the way of us making that complete offering to others.
True love is risky in that we don’t know how it will be received. That’s the risk God takes in loving us for our free will gives us the ability to accept or reject him. For God, it is a risk worth taking for his desire is for all of us to accept and experience his love. Rejection is difficulty, but nowhere near the beauty of those who accept the gift of love.
It is from this love that Jesus commands us to give to others, even our enemies. It is a call for us to remove any conditions we have placed on our love towards friends and foes. It is the willingness to die to self and sacrifice out of love. It is the openness to take the risk to love, even our enemies. If we find it hard to love someone, it might be good to begin with praying for them. The more we pray for them the easier it becomes to love them.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: James Tissot, 1836-1902