Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lev.19:1-2. 17-18; Ps. 103;1-2,3-4;1 Cor.3:16-23; mt.5:38-48
“Love your enemy”
Throughout history, loving one’s enemy has been problematic and the scriptures chosen for this last Sunday before Lent highlight that.
In the first reading from Leviticus, God asks Moses to tell the Israelites to imitate God and to be holy. They are to avoid revenge, hold no grudge and love their neighbor. They did not always do that, as a reading of some of the Old Testament scriptures will indicate. But to love others is expected of us, not only during Lent but as a regular way of life.
In the second reading, Paul encourages the Corinthians with the reminder that God’s Spirit dwells in them and, as temples of God, they are holy. To destroy a temple of God is to exact God’s punishment Paul warns. Therefore, for the Corinthians, or us, to hurt anyone or wish them ill would dishonor God.
Jesus expands on the mandate to love one’s neighbor in the Gospel and includes love for one’s enemy. He asks that we show this love by offering no resistance when insulted or imposed upon. This was a new idea, not something the disciples expected to hear, but necessary if one wished to be a faithful follower of Christ.
While the expectation that one should love and respect all people goes back thousands of years, it has often been ignored. To this day, humanity’s inhumanity to those perceived as “other” continues.
In 1959, the folk group, The Kingston Trio, released the song, “ The Merry Minuet.” Its facetious but ominous lyrics listed current natural disasters and named people and countries for whom the other was an enemy. Riots, hunger, distrust, and the looming threat of nuclear annihilation were grim realities at that time.
Sixty years later, our world still suffers from many of the conditions named in the song and is experiencing new ones. The renewed threat of nuclear war, the effects of long-ignored climate change, mass shootings, acts of domestic terrorism, intolerance against those who are different, and deep-seated political and philosophical differences divide us and have all re-defined “the enemy.”
How can we, as followers of Christ, bring love to bear on this current reality?
One way to begin might be to reflect on who is an enemy. How do you decide? Do you perceive an enemy to be someone with a different political or religious view, an undocumented person, or someone who has harmed you in some way? Does your perception of the enemy come from personal experience, the evening news, or social media? Is it based on fact or instinct?
This Lent can you resolve to examine some of your perceptions and study all sides of an issue before making a judgment? Perhaps you can try to listen with an open mind to someone with whom you disagree and so learn more about what motivates that person. You might even ask for the grace to pray for them and even risk loving them. Mother Teresa once advised that if we get together and love one another, we shall be able to overcome all the evil in the world.
If we begin to do this, it can be a start on healing some of the divisions our world experiences. At the very least, it may help all of us to heed Jesus’ invitation in today’s Gospel to be perfect.
Blessings on your Lent.
Sr. Michaela Connolly, OP