February 19, 2017
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
LV 19:1-2, 17-18 PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13 1 COR 3:16-23 MT 5:38-48
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
How much easier it would be if Jesus had left us with the old ways of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” if we were free to withhold love, compassion, and understanding from the people who seem so intent on doing us harm. If only they could be reasonable and see things our way. If only everyone agreed with us, the whole world would be right and be in harmony.
Every time that we pray the Our Father, we implore God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.” Which others did we think we were talking about? Did we think that when Jesus gave us this prayer he meant forgive us the same way that we forgive the people we love who love us? It would hardly have been worth mentioning, much less repeating to God as often as we do. No, in that prayer we ask (often) to be judged by the standards we have for the people we don’t like, and even those we are tempted to hate.
As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” Take this a step further, and you quickly realize that you aren’t the only Temple of the Holy Spirit, the people who you are tempted to call your enemies are also the dwelling place of the Most High God. If anyone destroys God’s temple, he calls destruction upon himself. That destroyer can be you just as easily as it can be the other guy.
Forgiveness is not easy. Loving our enemies is counter to every instinct of self-preservation that we have. There are days when it seems that the hatred of those horrible other people is definitely more a virtue than an occasion of sin. What if we could begin by laying aside our prejudices and assumptions and actually listening to the other person’s point of view – not listening to rebut and respond, but listening to understand? What if we heard the beautiful frailty of their humanity, and saw that they too were created as the Beloved of God? How would we forgive them then?