20 February 2022
As I am out of the country this Sunday, the homily below will not be delivered in person
It is provided here simply for reflection.
1 Samuel 26, 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 + Psalm 103 + 1 Corinthians 15, 45-49 + Luke 6, 27-38
It is very important to know and understand the first reading today and the story there describing the conflict between David and Saul. It sets the scene for what Jesus has to say to us in the Gospel today. They both wanted to kill the other, and David has every opportunity to do so, but he does not. He explains this by insisting that the “Lord’s anointed” (King Saul) should not be harmed. What Jesus has revealed to us is that “the Lord’s anointed” is no longer King Saul. It is every mother’s child.
What Jesus proposes in the verses of today’s Gospel goes against every basic instinct in human nature, but not against divine nature. Do good to those who hate you. That makes no sense at all. If someone steals your coat, give the thief your shirt as well. That’s crazy! As soon as that gets out to the world, you will have nothing left to give. Yet, four ringing commands spring out of this text: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who maltreat you. This is a nothing more than a total rejection of the culture of violence so characterized by a “tit for tat” mentality. What Jesus gives us is a strategy for breaking the cycle of evil.
The Love expected of us is not an emotion. It is a fundamental attitude that seeks another’s good and responds to their need. The source of love and the example of love is not found by looking at others like us. It is found by looking at God. It is only by thinking of and examining God’s love that we can find the inspiration to get beyond self-concern and suspicion. God’s selfless love for us is our motivation for loving others even though we know that our love of others will never quite match the depth and the breadth of God’s proven love for us. A people made in the image and likeness of God must exhaust themselves in the effort to be that image. Only if we love our enemies and expect nothing back will we be acting like God.
What we are faced with as this Gospel is proclaimed is the most radical obedience that Jesus asks of his disciples. Loving those who victimize us makes us no longer victims but free people whose behavior is now determined by Christ himself rather than the enemy.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle that gets in the way when we face the challenge of what Jesus asks of us is that we have failed to believe. The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved. Thomas Merton wrote that “Until we discover that we are loved, until this liberation has been brought about by the divine mercy, men and women are imprisoned in hate.” We who are often ungrateful and wicked, but who receive God’s mercy and love, can now see in the face of the enemy the face of God.