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The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 23, 2019

Alleluia, Alleluia.

I give you a new Commandment says the Lord:

Love one another as I have loved you.

Alleluia, Alleluia.

.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to St. Luke 6: 27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.  But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Stop judging and you will not be judged.  Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD

REFLECTION

Today’s Sacred Liturgy begins with an episode from the Book of Samuel which recalls how David had an opportunity to retaliate against King Saul who was aggressively seeking to kill him.  Instead of taking the king’s life, David spares Saul, and is even willing to forgive him.  This reading acts as a preparation for the radical teachings of Jesus recorded by St. Luke.

This is the second Sunday that we have been reflecting on Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain provided by the Gospel according to St. Luke.  The Sermon is the foundation of Christian morality,  the way of life for disciples of Jesus.  Luke’s presentation of the Sermon is distinct from St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount.  Like the Sermon on the Mount, Luke begins with Beatitudes, however his shorter version quickly moves to a core teaching of Jesus: Love of one’s neighbor!  This commandment has its foundation and motivation in God’s compassion and goodness to all people, as well as Jesus’ display of forgiveness and love for those who persecuted him.  These teachings of Jesus establishes the norm for discipleship, and simultaneously ushers in the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Jesus’ expectation is straightforward and demanding: love your enemies.  Jesus allows for no ambiguity: do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.  Not allowing for any misunderstanding, Jesus gives clear examples.  A disciple is not to seek revenge or retaliate for physical injuries.  The disciple is to lend and offer assistance to those in need without expecting to be repaid.  Jesus expects us to love our enemies and do good to them because a disciple embraces the blessed (Beatitude) way of God. And, then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for God himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

At this point, we might wonder if Jesus really understands our human condition. We are weak sinners, and therefore how can Jesus expect us to be like God.  Saint Paul clearly summarized our sinfulness situation: For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.  Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me (Roman 17: 19-20). 

The Sermon assures us that forgiveness of enemies and treating others as God treats us is the way of God and the very condition of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom is God’s Kingdom.  On its own, humanity cannot bring about the Kingdom of God; humanity needs the intervention and power of Jesus Christ.  However, this truth does not mean that we are excused; this does not leave us off the hook.  We were invited at Baptism to be collaborators with God, instruments of His Divine Plan of Salvation to save all humankind!  We are to live the way of God for our welfare and the salvation of others.

So then, when someone strikes us on the right cheek, what holds us back from offering the other cheek?  What prevents us from loving those who hurt us? From my experience fear is the reason we do not forgive those who hurt us.  Fear makes us close in on ourselves.  Fear is the opposite of love!  When someone hurts me, I am afraid to forgive because that might be seen as an invitation for that person to hurt me again.  I am afraid that my forgiveness will expose me to more attacks.  People will think I am weak!  And yet, relying on God dissolves fear. Union with Jesus empowers us to forgive and love even enemies!

We who want God’s forgiveness can forgive others with God’s strength.  With God’s grace we can: be merciful, just as our Father is merciful.

Prosit!

Monsignor Joseph Marino

 

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