JESUS’ CALL TO LOVE OUR ENEMIES – AN UNREALISTIC VENTURE?
First Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-7,11-13
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 138(139):1-3,13-14,23-24
Gospel Reading: Luke 6:27-38
Our postmodern age is sadly characterized with great violence, malice, terrorism, wars, increasing litigation – suing and counter-suing, murder, hatred (and of course, hate speeches), selfish pursuit of wealth and power, corruption, individualism, consumerism, prejudice, racism, tribalism, etc., such that it becomes difficult for true love to find its way in the airspace and in the hearts of men. This also explains why today’s message of love, compassion, and tolerance (especially for ‘enemies’) becomes a very difficult challenge for us. In truth, it seems to express an idealism that is totally unrealistic and unattainable. Nevertheless, in seeking to follow the path of the “Master” whose name we bear (Christians), today’s readings pose a great challenge to us to live out the gospel values of unconditional charity, compassion, tolerance, modesty, and above all – practical love for enemies.
Beginning with the gospel, St. Luke presents the core of Jesus’ teaching, which He himself practised, viz: Love for enemies, doing good to our haters, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who treat us badly, having a charitable spirit, etc. In summation, Jesus presents the Golden Rule which is often expressed as “Do not do to others what you would not want them do to you,” and expresses it in positive terms: “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.” This teaching was presented in the context of the Lukan account of the “beatitudes” and their corresponding “woes,” consoling the poor and marginalized in the society with a “future” of happiness. The poor were marginalized by the rich to the extent that they nursed strong feelings of hatred, contempt, bitterness, retaliation, etc., towards the rich who were considered their “enemies.” In order to give the beatitudes a meaning, Christ adds up the message of love, tolerance, compassion, modesty, charity, etc.
Undoubtedly, this teaching seems unrealistic in our age/time such that it requires the amazing grace of Christ to live it them out. Nonetheless, Jesus is not asking us to do something “unnatural.” We do not naturally want to hate or be hated; rather, we want to love and to be loved; this explains why the first challenge posed to us by Christ is “to love” unconditionally. The Greek verb which the gospel uses is “ἀγαπᾶτε” (agapate) – “to love” (in a social or moral sense), from which the noun agape comes. Agape is a special kind of love. It is not the physically-expressed love of lovers nor is it the love of close friends. It is rather an attitude of positive regard towards other people by which I wish for their well-being. True love has to hurt. It should enable one to be willing to give whatever it takes, not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them unconditionally, irrespective of who they are or what they had done to us. Thus, this requires that we should be willing to give until it hurts – this is the summary of Christ’s teaching today, and as a matter of fact, His redemptive mission in the world: His self-giving, rooted in true love for mankind which led Him to his sacrificial death on the cross.
In rounding up his teaching, Christ calls us to practice charity, grant pardon in order to be pardoned, be unjudgmental and not to condemn the other – in a nutshell: be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate. Being compassionate involves showing sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. This also cuts across the teachings of St. Paul in today’s first reading, which involves an attitude of compassion towards the “weak brother” by not scandalizing or injuring their weak consciences with our conducts or ways of life.
Dear friends in Christ, in the quest to put all these into practice, let us pray like today’s Psalmist: “Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way…O search me, God, and know my heart. O test me and know my thoughts. See that I follow not the wrong path and lead me in the path of life eternal.”
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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