WELCOME TO GOD’S HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH!
*** Reflection ***
Today Jesus continues his invitation to us to go beyond the letter of the law by calling us to go beyond our human tendencies toward hatred and revenge. In a world where demands for payback and “gotcha” moments are all too common, we are encouraged to lower the temperature of the rhetoric and reflect the heart of our merciful and loving God. If last year’s Year of Mercy is to mean anything, we are called to continue to show God’s mercy and forgiveness all through our lives.
“An Impossible Demand?“
The call to love is always seductive. Surely, many must have welcomed Jesus’ call to love God and love our neighbor, as the best synthesis of the Law given through Moses. What they couldn’t imagine is that one day he would speak to them about loving their enemies; but Jesus did just that. Without any backing from the Old Testament, and distancing himself from the psalms of vengeance that often fed the people’s prayer, and opposing the general climate of hate that breathed all around him, Jesus proclaimed this demand with absolute clarity: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you”.
His language is outrageous and surprising, but completely coherent with his experience of God. The Father isn’t violent: God loves even the wicked and does not seek anyone’s destruction. God’s greatness doesn’t consist in the power to condemn but in unconditionally loving everyone. Whoever wishes to be a child of that God will bring into the world neither hatred nor anyone else’s destruction. Of course we may – and should – pray for the conversion of the wicked.
Love of enemy isn’t a secondary teaching for Jesus, directed only to people who are called to a heroic perfection. His challenge is to introduce into history a new attitude in the face of those we feel to be our enemy because his whole desire is to eliminate hate and destructive violence from the world. Whoever is like God will not nourish hate against anyone, but will seek the good of all, including their enemies.
But Jesus knows what life is like. When he speaks of love of enemy, he isn’t asking us to nourish feeling of affection or sympathy or tenderness toward anyone who has done evil to us. The enemy continues being someone from whom we can expect harm, and it’s difficult for us to be able to change the feelings of our heart.
To love our enemy means above all to not do him evil, to not even wish harm to him. We don’t need to get upset if we don’t feel any positive love for him. It’s natural that we feel ourselves wounded or humiliated, but we try not to keep feeding hate and the thirst for vengeance. Eventually we can take another step forward and actually be willing to do him good if we find him in need. We need to remember that we are at our noblest and best when we forgive rather than when we rejoice at another’s misfortune.
Sincere forgiveness of enemies isn’t easy, and in some circumstances we could find it practically impossible to avoid thirsting for vengeance. No one needs to judge anyone else from the outside. Only God understands the heart and forgives unconditionally, even when we aren’t able to do so ourselves. But it remains the challenge set out by Jesus, and a grace which we should always pray to receive. (José Antonio Pagola)
Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48
“We must obey the spirit, and not just the letter of the law”
Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”