(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
Last week, we heard Jesus call the twelve apostles to be prophets. We know that at our baptism, we too are called to be prophets for the Kingdom. Being a prophet will not always be easy. Jesus is clear: some people will hate us and exclude us because of him. In fact, we may make some enemies. It is all very well to rejoice because our reward will be great in heaven, but what about now? What do we do now, if we have developed some enemies?
I say to you that listen, Love your enemies
Seriously? Love them??
When we think of love, we usually think of romantic love—wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends. We might also think of how much we love our family and our friends. We usually think about feelings. When we consider love as a feeling, though, loving our enemies does not make sense.
But Jesus is not talking about feelings. He says,
do good to those who hate you
When someone hates us, it would be so easy to do something mean, something to get even something that serves them right. It is easy to react to everything that they do. But Jesus says, "do good." Act instead of react. Find something kind to do.
What good is this action? What does it do for the enemy? What does it do for us? It is gift. It is a little like a balm, a soothing ointment—like placing cool aloe on a painful sunburn. A little relief.
Sometimes, though, it is better not to interact with the enemy at all. It just might not be safe. Jesus knows this. He says,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Bless and pray—sometimes that is all we can do. What do blessings and prayers do? They turn our eyes to God, the source of all our help. We call the holy into our mess. We cannot change others, but by blessing and praying, we call to the One who can, and we might find ourselves changed as well.
These are all actions, not feelings. This is how we love our enemies. These are actual things that we can do.
Doing good, turning towards God—by doing these things, we are fulfilling our role as prophets. We are creating space for God in our world. Doing good, blessing, praying—these are all gift to our world.
If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also;
Is Jesus suggesting that we let ourselves get beat up? No. Absolutely not. But Jesus is saying, present a face that is not about to attack back, that is not out to get revenge. Refraining from reacting is also an action—a difficult action. It is a gift to enemies that they do not deserve. It is mercy.
from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
Not only do not take revenge, Jesus says, but offer something more. Give abundantly.
Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
Gifts and more gifts! Jesus seems to be asking prophets to be merciful givers. As givers, who do we resemble? As people of mercy, who are we like
Jesus sums up all this giving into one sentence:
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Most of us have heard these words before. They are famous! We think we know what they mean.
making space for God,
giving to those who do not deserve it,
It seems like Jesus means something even more.
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Aha. Jesus means,
Do to others as God would do.
Be like God.
Easy for Jesus to say.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged;
do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven;
give, and it will be given to you.
Oh. When Jesus says, "Do to others as you would have them do to you," he really means,
Do to others as you would have God do to you.
This turns our eyes back to God again. We remember that we need mercy, too. We recall that everything we have is gift. Now our focus is back in the right place. We look to God as the source of all mercy, as the source of all gift. We remember how God gives:
A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
God gives so much it cannot be contained; it overflows. Our poor old world could use that kind of abundant gift.
So could our enemies.
So could we.
We take a deep breath, and we set out once again to do good, to bless, to pray—to be merciful givers like our God who is so full of mercy it overflows.