February 24, 2019

SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Every week God asks us all to live the Gospel and to follow his teachings. Sometimes this is effortless, however, this week the message is not an easy one to live out. “Love your enemies. . . do good to those who hate you. . . bless those who curse you. . . pray for those who mistreat you.” This is not an easy command to follow, in fact it goes against all of human nature.

Our enemies are the last people we want to forgive let alone love. If we are attacked, our instinct is to fight back, not offer the other cheek. If someone takes our coat, the last thing we want to do is offer our sweater as well. If someone asks us for something we automatically evaluate whether or not they deserve it. If someone takes something we own without asking, why would we want them to keep it. What Jesus is asking seems impossible; after all, we all have a right to defend our property, and ourselves don’t we?

In this week’s Gospel Jesus is speaking to the newly appointed Twelve, who are gathered along with a large group, some disciples and others discerning whether to follow him or not. Jesus begins with the statement “To you who hear I say.” He isn’t referring to the groups ability to hear his voice, but rather to those who can hear his message, comprehend what he is saying, take that message to heart and to act on it. We all need to listen carefully to Jesus’ message because on the surface this message doesn’t necessarily sound like good advice.

Jesus points out that it isn’t difficult to act in a loving way toward one another if we expect some benefit in return for ourselves. Loving someone who loves us, and lending only to those we know will pay us back is easy and does not distinguish us from the hypocrites and sinners. There is no virtue in extending ourselves for the sake of personal gain or being repaid in some way.

Once Jesus establishes these points he returns to his original message: “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 High.” If we follow his message we will receive a spiritual reward, not a material one, we will become “children of the Most High.”

So why is becoming a child of the Most High the reward for loving our enemies and following this Gospel message? Because when we love our enemies we are acting in the same way our Heavenly Father acts. God is “kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” God makes the sunrise every day and shines its light on everyone regardless if they are good or evil, he gives the same gifts to the mean spirited, the rude, the untrustworthy and the wicked. He expects us to do the same. By acting in the way God would act and treating others in a way we would like to be treated, we are giving others a small experience of God’s boundless love.

Jesus teaches the disciples and us in turn, that the way we treat others mirrors the way we will be treated. He tells all of us to stop judging and we will not be judged, to stop condemning and we will not be condemned. To forgive and we will be forgiven.

We all live the Gospel as we live out our lives. We have now learned the importance of recognizing that sometimes we are the one to forgive and at other times the one in need of forgiveness. Sometimes we ask and sometimes we receive. We find ourselves on both sides of the spectrum.

On the surface this Gospel message is deceiving, but once heard, comprehended, taken to heart and acted upon, it provides a path to follow that will allow us to fulfill God’s great expectation of us all and open us up to receive His bountiful love.

Deacon Nicholas Veliky

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