1Cor 8:1b-7,11-13; Ps 139:1b-3,13-14ab,23-24; Lk 6:27-38
Saint John the Beloved Disciple has taught us that God is love. The One who probes us is love. It is the Living Flame of Love that probes us and knows us. Love knows when we sit or stand; Love understands our thoughts from afar. All our journeys and all our resting he scrutinizes, with all our ways Love is familiar. Truly Love has formed our inmost being; Love knit us in our mother’s womb. We give thanks to this God who is love. We give thanks that we are made in his image and likeness. We are made in love, by love, and for love. Love is our divine origin and our eternal fulfillment. Love and only love is our source and our guide, now and forever. We are fearfully, wonderfully made. Indeed, all of the works of Love are fearful and wonderful. With the psalm we too pray that Love probe us and know our hearts. We pray that Love try us and know our thoughts. Indeed, we desire with whole hearts that our ways be known, and if they are crooked we pray that Love lead us into the ways of love eternal. This psalm begins with a wonderful knowledge that we are probed by the God who is love, and this psalm ends with the free surrender to this ever probing Love so that we might become what Love has made us to be, fearful and wonderful in his sight. It is this Love to which Saint Paul appeals to sort out any problem among the Corinthians. Indeed, without love there is no possibility of Christian community. This same love becomes a commandment at the very center of the Divine Teacher’s instruction for his faithful disciples. It is this divine love that becomes our nourishment here and at every Eucharist.
Saint Paul begins to reflect upon the problem of eating meat sacrificed to idols with this powerful insight, “knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up”. Those who believe have come to know that the idols that fill our world and enslave our neighbors are things of naught. All false gods and lords may have power over those who believe in them, but we believe in the one true God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because we have such knowledge, we are free from all that seeks to enslave us in this world. However, our freedom in Christ is no excuse to ignore those among us who are new to the faith and who have been so used to idolatry up until now. For them eating meat sacrificed in the market place to the local deity is a scandal and an offence. Our strength gives us the power to sacrifice our own desire for meat and eat only that which will not offend our weaker brothers and sisters, new converts to the faith. Saint Paul’s guiding principle is the love that makes Christian community a possibility. He puts it quite simply, “Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause my brother to sin.” This reasoning from the specific to the general provides holy wisdom for holy living among those who profess the faith, those who are new in faith and those who have been faithful for a longer time. Where love orders behavior, there the King of Love on Calvary lives and moves and has his being.
The Lord Jesus addresses his disciples as those who hear. To be a disciple demands that we listen with the ear of our heart to every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Nothing the Lord says is a waste of breath. His every word is spoken out of divine love to save and rescue us from sin and vice. Today we hear a command that is easily misunderstood and often ignored, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you”. The act of offering the other cheek is a powerful cultural statement that seldom finds its way into translation. At that time and in that culture to offer the other cheek would be saying, in effect, your gesture of hate does not move me to hate. You have no control over my inner most being, and I freely offer the other cheek. Even a second blow will not gain control over my emotions or my behavior; I am free even in the midst of your offensive and insulting behavior. Indeed, I can control myself, even if you do not control yourself. This kind of freedom in Christ is the only thing that will change our world. Indeed, loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who mistreat us, is impossible without union with Christ. Only in him, with him, through him can we hope to live his command of love. Only then can we truly be what we are called to be, “children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked”. Our mercy must go beyond what the world expects. We cannot expect to be forgiven unless we forgive. For the strength to live this way we must pray again and again, as the Lord Jesus taught us, “Our Father, who art in heaven…”