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
Over the last four plus decades of ministry, this Gospel always seems to invoke the greatest angst. It raises the most questions and sometimes, while acknowledged as the word of God, is placed upon a shelf for greater reflection some day in the future.
The root of the angst comes from who we are as human beings. The pessimistic viewpoint is that human beings are hard-wired for sleep, not mercy. Our instinct is for pleasure, not pain. Our nature moves us to satisfaction, not self-denial. Our problem is that we tend to focus too much on ourselves and our own immediate needs and overlook the needs of others
Jesus knows this. No one has to teach Jesus about the ways of the human heart. He also knows that our hard-wiring moves us to save ourselves, to seek pleasure, to shun pain. These are good instincts, but Jesus wants more for us.
He wants us to love as God loves. That love means that we need to focus more on others. We can only do this if we have a strong inner sense of security and self-acceptance. Then we are not too worried about what people say about us or do to us.
And then, too, we can turn our attention much more to the one who is hating or harming. We will begin to ask why do they have to act in this way. What is hurting inside them that drives them to such behavior? Already we are just by thinking in this way beginning to care for our enemy and beginning to love him or her.
And is not this a much better solution to the problem? To bring peace back into that person’s life and initiate a healing process in them and between them and me.
Jesus is not at all asking us to do something “unnatural”. We do not naturally want to hate or be hated. We want to love and to be loved. We see many parts of the world where – for years – there has been a process of hatred and retaliation in a never-ending spiral of vengeance and loss of life.
The only way to break this cycle is to follow Jesus’ advice. It is not a lose-lose or lose-win situation; it is a win-win situation where everyone benefits.
Perhaps words of the late Mother Teresa are appropriate here:
“Love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.”
This, in fact, is the love that God has for us. It is a one-sided love in the sense that a return is not expected. God reaches out in infinite love to every single person without exception. God wishes every person to experience that love; God wishes the fullest well-being of every single person. That love of His is often not returned; it is often rejected or ignored. But it always continues to flow.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart free that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me bitter towards anyone”
With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers all, even our hurts, fears, prejudices and griefs. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment and gives us the courage to return evil with good. Such love and grace have power to heal and to save from destruction. Do you know the power of Christ’s redeeming love and mercy?