7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Our Gospel passage this morning is a continuation of what we read a week ago, the Lord’s sermon on the plain. In that sermon Jesus turned the values of this world upside down; while the world would say blessed are the rich, Jesus said blessed are the poor. Today, in our gospel passage the teaching is not in any way different, it is still about turning the values of this world upside down. Hear what he says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” That is not the way of this world, it is not the way of our societies today. The world would tell you, hate your enemies, and do no good to them. Curse those who curse and tell those who beg of you to go work and earn their living.
Our Lord’s teaching today is undoubtedly a difficult one, yet a possibility as we see in our first reading this morning. Saul became jealous of David and hated him. With three thousand men he went after David to kill him. But at night Saul fell asleep, and David had the opportunity to kill Saul who hated him so much. One of David’s men urged him to take the advantage and kill Saul in his sleep, but David said; “Do not destroy him; for who can raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?”
David was able to love the man who declared himself an enemy because, he looked beyond the man Saul to see the anointing of God in him. David looked beyond Saul’s weakness and the hate he carried to see the anointing power of God in him. He looked beyond the image of the first Adam as St. Paul says in our second reading to see the image of the second Adam.
The call to love our enemies is certainly a difficult one, but it becomes less difficult when we learn to see the image of the second Adam (Christ) in those people. I have no doubt in me at all that this call to love our enemies is a challenging one, and so it may have been for the twelve apostles of Christ when they were directed to distribute five loaves of bread and two fish to five thousand men. It was something impossible until they started in obedience distribute the bread, it was only then they realized that it was possible. Unless we begin to love, we may not know how much we can love.
The world may consider loving our enemies as weakness or fear, but only the strong can actually love their enemies; strong in faith. David was a strong soldier, even as a young boy he killed Goliath the giant. His refusal to kill Saul even when he had the opportunity was a sign of strength and faith in God.
There may be people in our lives we believe we can never forgive because they hurt us so much, and in most cases these people are not ready to accept the fact that they’ve wronged us; they make forgiveness difficult. But that is the time to rely on grace to show our strength. It may be difficult for us but possible with the help of Christ. We too have sinned, and we may have even hurt others as well.
We all know that we are called to love our enemies. But, many of us struggle with how to bring about a spirit of forgiveness. When I counsel those struggling with this problem, I always suggest that we need first to begin with Jesus, gazing upon the Crucified, and listening to his first words from the Cross: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Then continuing to gaze upon the crucifix and repeating those powerful words over and over again, we may ask the Lord to help us to forgive.
Secondly, we should act out our forgiveness. Perhaps a phone call, or letter, or a friendly knock on someone’s door will convey forgiveness. For forgiveness requires an act. It is not enough to simply think about it. If the person who has hurt us is deceased, then going to the cemetery and there reading aloud a letter forgiving that person from the heart; burying the letter next to that person’s grave provides a means whereby we may act out our forgiveness.
There may be extraordinary situations where we may find it impossible to actually physically forgive an enemy. Maybe it will be dangerous even to approach the person who has become an enemy. Nevertheless, even in these extreme situations, Jesus calls on us to forgive from the heart and never to harbor resentment or hatred toward anyone.
We live in a very difficult world and it is not getting easier. It takes a great person to love everyone and to hate no one. However, this is what Jesus calls us to do. How can any of us raise our hands in worship or wear religious articles and then hate our enemies? How can we receive the God of love into our hearts, only to have that heart blocked by resentment and hatred? How can we kneel down and ask God for forgiveness, and then refuse to forgive an enemy? “For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?” (Matthew 5: 46 – 47).
Let us pray in this Mass for the grace to forgive and let go; for both forgiveness and giving opens the doors of blessing and prepares us to receive in abundance. As the Lord say; “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN