Below is my homily for Masses this today. I pray that it speaks to you in some way.
Peace and Blessings.
Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle C – February 24, 2019
1 Sam 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23, Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13, 1 Cor 15:45-49, Lk 6:27-38
Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you! Bless those who curse you!
I would imagine that there have been many times in our lives when we have been confronted by someone and our first response is revenge. We are upset that they have invaded our personal space, said terrible things about us or our family, or simply gave us a dirty look. Our human nature takes over and we want to make sure that person who is causing us pain feels that same kind of pain, heartache, despair. Now, I should not generalize and say that we all would act that way but, if you and I stop for a moment and think about it, we can probably agree that we find ourselves in those situations from time to time.
As I was going through the readings this weekend, especially this Gospel passage from Luke, I could not help but think of individuals who truly loved their enemies, who lived their lives as we all should; with grace, humility, and an overabundance of love. Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela were some people that immediately came to mind.
Gandhi is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is a rather lengthy movie, nearly 4 hours, but I can watch it repeatedly and find some new revelation in it every time I watch. For those who may not know about Gandhi, he was a strong proponent of non-violence to resolve conflicts and issues. He helped to bring about an independent India and Pakistan after centuries of rule by the British and he did so without ever lifting his fist in rage. Everything he did, he did with love.
During one scene in the movie, Gandhi is seen walking with a Church of England priest who had become a disciple, if you will, of Gandhi and his work to help change the world. There was a gang of young men, ready to throw rocks at Gandhi and fearing for their lives, the clergyman suggested they turn around and go home. Gandhi thought just the opposite.
Gandhi, a Hindu, turned to the priest and quoted Jesus from today’s Gospel; “to the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well.” Of course, the clergyman said that this was not meant to be taken literally and kind of laughed when he did so. Gandhi turned to the priest and said that he “suspected that Jesus meant one must show courage and be willing to take one blow or several blows to show that you will not strike back nor turn away. That calls on something in the enemy that makes his hatred for you decrease and his respect for you increase.” If you think about it, the scene is rather ironic in that a Hindu, quotes today’s Gospel to a Christian clergyman about how we should be living our lives every day.
Gandhi once said, “Non-violence is the greatest force at disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” Non-violence is not about being passive. We should never be quiet about the injustice that we see in this world. Rather, we should engage our enemies, those who do harm to ourselves or others and help them to better understand the message that Jesus is sharing with us today. A message of love, hope, forgiveness, and truth.
Now, it should be easy for each one of us to get behind Gandhi’s non-violence campaign in our own lives. However, the human side of us says it is not practical. Our humanity tends to take over in those situations. How can you expect me to love someone I hate or who hates me?
I believe today’s Gospel makes it very clear that we are to place the needs of others first. To always want what is best for the other person. Loving our enemies is not avoiding them, or tolerating them, or being indifferent to them. It is being inclusive. It is stepping out of our comfort zone and engaging someone we typically want nothing to do with. It is to love them the way that Jesus loves you and me; unconditionally and with every fiber of our being. Look at our second reading today where David had every opportunity to slay his enemy, Saul, but chose not to. David is an example of the love that Jesus shared with us in today’s Gospel.
So how do you and I go about changing our lives, putting the needs of others first, engaging our enemies, turning the other cheek? It is quite simple; LOVE and FORGIVENESS. Throughout history, people have forgiven others for extraordinary crimes because they were graced by God to do so. If God is asking us to forgive and love our enemies, then it is certainly possible for as we know, with God all things are possible.
Gandhi once said, “if we exact an eye for an eye, then the whole world goes blind.” Today, Jesus is asking us to change the cycle of violence and hatred that has brought down everything that is good and just in this world. We must bring more love into His world. We must love with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind.
We must love those who have hurt us by being compassionate and understanding and acknowledge the hurt and pain that may be taking place in their own lives. We cannot hope to “love our enemies” until we see beyond the stereotypes, we reduce others to and the labels we place on them based on their race, religion, social standing and wealth. Only in understanding the griefs and disappointments of those we love, and those we want nothing to do with, can we begin to break the endless circle of hatred, fear, and vengeance that surrounds us and continues to place our world in darkness.
As God continues to take the initiative in saving us, we must, if we are to be faithful disciples of God’s Son, take the same initiative in our relationships with one another. We MUST be the face of Christ in today’s world so that like Jesus, we too can love completely and unconditionally.