OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel
By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-25
1 Corinthians 15:45-50
Loving Our Enemies
A certain monk was praying under a tree beside a river. As he prayed the tide was coming and the river was rising. Then he noticed a scorpion at the foot of the tree struggling for dear life as the surging waves tried to drown him. The monk stretched out his hand to pull the scorpion to safety but each time his hand came near the scorpion tried to sting him. A passerby saw what was going on and said to the monk: “What are you doing? Don’t you know that it is in the nature of a scorpion to sting?” “Yes,” replied the monk, “And it is in my nature to save. Must I change my nature because the scorpion refuses to change his?” Today’s gospel urges Christians to remain true to their nature to love even when the people around them remain adamant in their nature to hate.
Today’s gospel continues the Great Sermon of Jesus from where we left off last Sunday. After speaking about the persecution and violence that will be visited on the disciples, as was done to the prophets of old, Jesus now speaks to the disciples about how they are to respond to the hostility. He begins: “But I say to you that listen…” (Luke 6:27). What follows is not a general code of conduct for all and sundry but a standard of behaviour for those who follow Jesus and listen to his teachings. If Christianity is a superior religion, the way to show it is not by endless arguments and debates about the true religion but by the superior moral conduct of Christians.
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. (6:27-30)
What does Jesus mean by “love your enemies?” Does he mean we should have enemies and then, in some mysterious manner, love them at the same time? Or does he mean we should not have enemies at all? Taking into consideration that Jesus is speaking about the disciples and their persecutors, we see that “enemies” here means those who hate the disciples, not those whom the disciples hate. Disciples are to hate no one. If by enemies we mean those we hate, then Christians should have no enemies. But if by enemies we mean those who hate us, then we cannot help having enemies. We cannot control how others treat us, we can only control how we treat them.
The disciples lived in a society that hated them and treated them with hostility. What Jesus is asking them in today’s gospel is that they should not return hatred for hatred or hostility for hostility. This is an attitude that the church in all its 2000 years of existence has hardly understood. It took godly men like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr to reawaken Christians to the importance of non-violence as the norm of the Christian response to persecution, oppression, abuse and injustice. Jesus remains the greatest teacher and example of non-violence, for even as they were leading him out to a shameful, public execution on the cross, he was still able to say, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
We can more easily forgive and offer non-violence to our enemies – those who hate us, not those we hate – by reminding ourselves that they are living and acting in ignorance and that one day the truth will overtake them. Non-violence is not limited to social movements; it is required also in family and interpersonal relationships where we can become victims of verbal and physical violence. While we should do all we can to put an end to an abusive situation, the gospel reminds us today that, in the words of Gandhi and King, an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. If there is in our lives a scorpion of hate that delights in stinging us, let us, like the monk, remain faithful to our commitment to love.
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Epistle
By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-25
1 Corinthians 15:45-50
Reconstruction, not Renovation
A real estate agent once told the story of an old warehouse property he was selling. The building had been vacated and left empty for a long time. Unbeknownst to him, some unscrupulous homeless people moved in and used it as temporary lodging. When the agent brought a prospective buyer to show him the property, he discovered that the doors were broken, the windows were all smashed and there was debris and garbage all over the house. The agent tried to reassure the buyer that he would repair the broken doors and windows and clean out the garbage. “Forget about the repairs,” the buyer said. “When I buy the house, I’m going to tear it down and build something completely new.”
When God takes over our lives, God is not content merely to carry out simple repairs of our broken lives, God means to remake us completely into new people. God’s grace in us is not just about fixing and improving the old person but transforming the old person into a completely new person. As Paul tells us in today’s second reading, this is because it is only the person who has been regenerated, made new, and transformed by God’s grace who can share in the resurrection. The earthly person who has not been made new by God is incapable of sharing in the life of the resurrection. “What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
To illustrate his teaching on the need for human life to be transformed by God’s grace in order to qualify for the resurrection, Paul uses the teachings of a famous Jewish philosopher and theologian, Philo of Alexandria. Philo had taught the doctrine of the two Adams. The first Adam, created in Genesis 1 in the image of God, was the spiritual Adam. The second Adam created in Genesis 2 from the dust of earth was the physical Adam. This would mean that there are two old Adams. But since Paul sees Christ as the new Adam, the ancestor of the new humanity, just as the old Adam was the ancestor of the old humanity, he reverses the order of the two Adams in Philo: “But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven” (verses 46-47).
So, for Paul, there are two Adams, the first or old or earthly Adam, and the new, second or heavenly Adam, which is Christ. These two Adams have the entire human race between them, some belonging to the camp of the earthly Adam and others to the camp of the heavenly Adam. At the end of time, those who belong to the earthly Adam will remain in the dust of earth, while those who belong to the heavenly Adam will rise to new life. “As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven” (verses 48-49).
To those who argue that the human body as we know it – needing food and shelter, and prone to all sorts of illnesses, disabilities, ageing and decay – cannot rise to live forever, Paul says yes and no. Yes, because it is the same body that is going to rise; and no because it will be completely transformed such that it is no longer susceptible to these changes. The risen body of Christ was still able to eat, but had no need to eat. So shall we be at the resurrection, if we remain in Christ.
As humans we all come into life belonging to the camp of the earthly Adam. The greatest challenge of life is to see that, although we are born in the camp of Adam, we do not die on the side of the old Adam but on the side of Christ. We need to change sides from Adam’s territory to Christ’s domain. We do not achieve this by simply trying to becoming better people. Christianity is not just about becoming a better person, it is about becoming new person. Today is a good day to say a prayer of total surrender to God. And so we pray:
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. / Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. / Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Fr. Jack McArdle
GOSPEL : Luke 6:27-38.
Today’s gospel summarises something that was very new to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They had a law which said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. In other words, they were expected to strike back at those who harmed them in any way. It is in a gospel like that presented to us today that we see just how radical and revolutionary Jesus’ teaching must have sounded back then. Indeed, it is still quite revolutionary in today’s world, with our dog-eat-dog mentality. The process of salvation which he had come to establish would be based on forgiveness, and, therefore, to be part of, and to belong to that process must put each one of us right out there in the front line of tolerance, forgiveness, and love.
There is extraordinary power in forgiveness, gentleness, meekness, and love. “Blessed are the meek” says Jesus, “they shall possess the earth.” We have all seen the movies, read the books, or heard the first-hand accounts of the lives of Mahatma Ghandi or Martin Luther King. The bully cannot deal with the power of the one who won’t strike back, and, therefore, such people are killed, as the only evident way of stopping them. To err is human, to forgive is divine. We are all familiar with the concept of people being small-minded, big-hearted, narrow-minded, tolerant, bigoted, judgmental, etc. We have seen revolutionaries trying to overthrow the powers-that-be by force of arms. In doing this, many innocent people get killed, and, it often happens that the liberated oppressed become the new oppressors. On the other hand, we have Peace Movements, Civil Rights marches, and candle-light vigils to highlight injustices and oppression. Aggression from one provokes aggression in another. My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure.
Forgiveness is like salt, which is a preservative, and keeps food from going rotten. Before we had fridges and freezers, sections of beef or bacon were packed into boxes of salt, which keep them edible for quite a long time. When a couple get married, it is no exaggeration to say that, if they have enough forgiveness within their hearts, their love will continue, and will grow. Forgiveness is an on-going process on the journey towards total acceptance. This applies equally to my ability and willingness to forgive myself, as it does to the forgiveness of others. Quite a great deal of the violence and turmoil in parts of the world are the results of past injustices, where forgiveness hasn’t been given a chance to heal the wounds. There would never be a war if someone, somewhere, was prepared to say “I’m sorry, I was wrong; please forgive me”.
There is great power in forgiveness. The one who forgives is the one who has the greatest strength. Not to forgive is to harbour resentments, and resentments are always harmful to the one who carries them. If I have a resentment against you, it is like me drinking poison, and I’m expecting you to die! The only one who is harmed is myself. Not to forgive is to allow someone else have power over me. They are in my thoughts, and my thoughts about them disturb and disquiet me, and I am in a state of dis-ease, and I cannot possibly be at peace.
The whole story of salvation and redemption is one of loving forgiveness. It is about forgiveness of sin, and about freeing from debt. God is love, and, therefore, God is a forgiving God. Jesus asks us to love one another as he loves us. The only condition laid down about forgiveness is that I be willing to forgive others. Jesus taught us to pray “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. What comes to me from God must go sideways to those around me. Previous generations made constant use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in their desire to receive God’s forgiveness, and there may not have been sufficient stress on the simple teaching of Jesus “If you forgive, you are forgiven”.
If I am to live a Christian life, then I have to place forgiveness of others fairly and squarely in the middle of the package. Nelson Mandela says that we make peace with our enemies, not with our friends. Jesus says that if we love those who love us, what reward is in that, because even the pagans do that. Forgiveness of our enemies is the hallmark of the Christian. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus prayed for those who were killing him. “Father, forgive them……”
Nowhere is it more evident that, by myself, I just don’t have what it takes to live the Christian life. Without the Spirit of God within my heart, the whole thing is impossible for a mere human. I never actually become a Christian. I am always in the process of becoming. That is the direction in which my life is going. It is peace on earth to those of goodwill, not to those who are perfect. If I have a resentment towards another, I should pray for that person, day after day, no matter how difficult I may find it. Only in this way will the resentment gradually melt and disappear. Of course, this is difficult, and, when I begin to do this, my heart won’t be in it. In fact, the very words may stick in my throat. However, in blind faith, I just have to make the effort, and, after some time, I will begin to see the results.
There but for the grace of God go I is a very wise and true statement. I didn’t choose my parents, my place of origin, my social background, etc. I could have been born into any circumstances, and, given the right ingredients and conditions in my upbringing, I could have become the biggest criminal, or the most evil person in history. Being deeply conscious of my own sinfulness is a necessary condition for holiness, and for the capacity to have a forgiving heart. There are two conditions for getting to heaven. One is to be a sinner, and the other is to know it. Let the one among you who has no sin throw the first stone, says Jesus. If I was deeply convinced of my own sinfulness, then I would leave you alone, and stop pointing a finger at someone else. (When you point a finger at someone else, please note that there are three fingers pointing back at you!). When we began this Mass, we stood together and confessed to God and to each other that we are sinners. Have you noticed that the first person singular is used only three times in the whole Mass? I confess…….I have sinned….Lord, I am not worthy….. All the rest of the Mass is in the plural form. When it comes to sin, however, each one of us has to speak for ourselves.
How would the following exercise appeal to you? You sit in front of a mirror, reflect on all of the failures, brokenness, and sin in your life. You take as much time as you need for this. You are going to ask God’s forgiveness, you are going to try to make amends wherever possible, and you want to move forward from here. Ask yourself one simple question: How willing are you to give yourself absolution, to forgive yourself totally, before you dare ask God to forgive you? Is there any point in asking God to do something for you that you are unwilling to do for yourself? Guilt is not from God. Rather is it your own inability to forgive yourself. A leading psychiatrist said that he could discharge two-thirds of his patients immediately if he could get them to forgive themselves.
To forgive is not necessarily to forget. I cannot press a button and erase the memory of some hurt or injustice. I can forgive, though, and, through the work of God’s Spirit, the memory will be healed, and will no longer hurt. Is there anyone who has really hurt you, and against whom you have every reason to have a very great resentment? Sometimes I may have to forgive God for what I see as the unfair hand I got in life. We all have received our own share of hurts in life, but there is usually one or two in particular who have hurt us more than others. Do you think you could hand over that hurt to God in the Offertory of this Mass?
Jesus taught us one simple prayer, which we call the Our Father or the Lord’s Prayer. It is a simple prayer, and it is quite short. One of the petitions is where we ask God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We can rattle off this prayer, and fail to realise the bind in which it can place us. We are putting a condition on God’s forgiveness, and that condition is that we are willing to forgive others. Please take time out sometime today to reflect on the ramifications of saying this prayer.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Christian Jew living in Holland during the Nazi occupation of that country. She has written some beautiful books, filled with the spirit of the Christian gospel. One of those books is her own story. She tells of what happened to herself and to her family. One night a man came to their door in great panic and terror. He told them that himself and his family were going to be taken away by the Nazis. The only hope he had was that he might be able to bribe the police, and they might be left unharmed. He begged for some valuable objects to effect the bribe. He was given whatever they could possibly give, and then he left. It was a trick, because he went straight to the Nazi police, and reported them for assisting in his proposed escape. Corrie and all of her family were arrested, and they ended up in a German concentration camp. All of her family died there, and she was the only survivor. Later, when she returned home, she spent a considerable length of time tracking down the man who had betrayed them. She eventually did so. Her only reason for wanting to meet him was that, for her own peace of mind, she needed to forgive him. She felt that it was only through forgiveness, and not through resentment, that she could continue to live in freedom.
7th Sunday Ordinary (C)/ Love your enemies
|1 Sam 26:2-23/ Ps 103/ 1 Cor 15:45-49/ Lk 6:27-38
|A certain monk was praying under a tree beside a river. As he prayed the tide was coming and the river was rising. Then he noticed a scorpion at the foot of the tree struggling for life as the surging waves tried to drown him. The monk stretched out his hand to pull the scorpion to safety but each time his hand came near the scorpion tried to sting him. A passerby saw what was going on and said to the monk: “What are you doing? Don’t you know that it is in the nature of a scorpion to sting?” “Yes,” replied the monk, “And it is in my nature to save. Must I change my nature because the scorpion refuses to change his?” Today’s gospel urges Christians to remain true to their nature to love even when the people around them remain adamant in their nature to hate.|
|The gospel reminds us today that an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. If there is in our lives a scorpion of hate that delights in stinging us, let us, like the monk; remain faithful to our commitment to love.|
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Homily # 1
The scripture readings today, tell us that if we as Christians want to be followers of Christ, then we are to be as open in our attitude to others as God has been in his care for us. We are challenged to love and pardon those who wrong us.
In the book of Samuel, we hear that the relationship between Saul and David was marked by tension, caused by Saul’s mistrust of David. Saul saw David as a threat. Saul was jealous of David. Saul pursues David to destroy him, however it is David who gains the upper hand and has the opportunity to kill Saul, but David was not consumed with the desire for revenge. David does not harm Saul. Mercy and compassion win over power and greed.
Today’s Gospel challenges us to do precisely the opposite of what our human nature naturally wants us to do. The principle of ”eye for eye”,”tooth for tooth.” But the first words of Jesus cut to the heart of the matter: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, Pray for those who mistreat you, Give to everyone who asks. Do good for your enemies, lend them money expecting nothing back. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging, Stop condemning, Forgive and you will be forgiven. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
It is not easy to be a Christian and do all the things the Gospel tells to do but we must share our lives with one another. This is what discipleship requires.
An example of forgiveness that I know of is in a short story. I would like to share with you: This by the way is a true story. This happened in the Saint Louis area. Some years ago this couple lost a daughter, who was in college. The girl was young – she had her whole life ahead of her. She was murdered by a man. I can only imagine the shock, the pain, the anguish of her family at the news of the tragic death of their loved one. The man, who committed this horrible crime, was caught, tried and found guilty. The parents of the murdered girl forgave the man found guilty and pleaded with the judge that he not receive the death penalty. This is a perfect example of loving your enemies.
Another story of forgiveness is the parable of the Prodigal Son. Recall the parable.
A father had two sons. One day the younger son demanded his inheritance, took it and left home. Before long he spent all his money “on reckless living”. Coming to his senses, he inventoried his situation, repented his sinfulness, returned home, admitted his sin and amended his life.
The son was still a long way from home when his father saw him. His father’s heart was filled with pity and he ran and threw his arms around his son and kissed him. The father said to this servants, “Bring the best robe. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Let us celebrate with a feast!” This scene portrays the father doing four things:
First: He embraced his son. This shows that the father welcomed him back totally.
Second: The father put shoes on his son’s feet. This shows that the father also forgave his son totally. In biblical times, shoes were a sign of a free person. Slaves went barefoot.
Third: The father gave his son a signet ring. This shows that the father restored his son totally to the status he had before he ran away.
Finally The father ordered a banquet for his son. This shows that the father rejoiced totally at his son’s return.
In our daily lives, we have so many opportunities to be compassionate as our Father in heaven is compassionate to all those we meet – in our homes with family, at work and wherever we may be.
Jesus’ fundamental principle of “Forgive and you will be forgiven” is a contract we make within the Our Father when we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
We shall receive what we have given to others. When we act with mercy and compassion, God will act similarly toward us. Going beyond what is required will inspire God to be equally generous.
We humans are simply unable to comprehend the lavish generosity of God. When we learn to offer compassion, love and forgiveness to others, we will learn to trust what God is offering to us.
To be a Christian then is to accept that each person is chosen by God. Each is deserving of love. Each needs to be heard. No one is beyond the mercy of God, and if people need proof of that, then maybe it is to be found in the way we react to them. We need to be open enough to listen, to offer a word of hope, a word of peace, a word of forgiveness. If we wish to perfect our witness to gospel values, we could begin by showing mercy to ourselves and others, and to love and pardon those who wrong us.
The gospel today challenges all of us who hear it!
Homily # 2
As we know, our scripture readings given to by our Church always contain messages from God. God talks to us in the scriptures and we talk to Him in our prayers.- That’s how it works. It is the role of the homilist to focus on just one of the many messages our readings contain. While normally the homilist will focus on the 1st and 3rd readings for his message,I would like to focus on the series of 2nd readings our Church has given us the last few weeks. These readings cover in much detail Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. I chose these because they have a message we need to hear and respond to.
Lets look at these readings for our message of today. The city of Corinth is worldly,successful, and sophisticated. This city is very much like our big cities in this respect.
1) Christians failing to see how they can survive in such a “God-less” society.
2) Almost everyone following their own concept of religion – formal Religion – is not taken seriously.
3) Many factions fight over who is right.
4) Many serious immoral actions are widely practiced and accepted.
Paul sees that his immediate problem is to try to figure out how to get some unity -much the same as our new President has said.
Paul clearly points out that our Baptism should unify us. This, of course, is the same message our Pope and Bishops are telling us.
Certainly our Church has changed very little in 2000yrs. Good thing our God is patient.
Paul’s response to these problems give us an excellent model to follow
1) Always warm and welcoming.
2) Always positive with the people e.g. What do we have in common?
3) Always reminds the people that all gifts come from God.
4) The 1st sentence of “Our liturgy of the Hours” is from Paul and it tells us to encourage each other daily while it is still today – it can’t be clearer.
So our message today is that our world has not changed much in 2000 years.
But it is also a message of how we must be patient,kind warm and welcoming to all others if we are going to have a chance to properly respond to Paul’s challenge and the message from our Pope and Bishops!
If we take an arrogant attitude no one will listen to us. We need to strive to get everyone to be participants not spectators !
We need to keep our Faith’s values while reaching out for others to see our message and join us
I believe the best way to do this is by the example of the lives we live.
Bishop Zipfel’s favorite poem says it all:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day
I’d rather one would walk with me than merely show the way
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear
Fine counsel is confusing but example is always clear.
I may misunderstand you and the high advise you give, but there is no misunderstanding how you act and how you live !
Our lives give us the best opportunity to preach God’s word to everyone we meet.
Homily # 3
An old woman in the village was said to be receiving divine apparitions. The local priest demanded proof of their authenticity. “When God next appears to you”, he said, “ask Him to tell you my sins which are known to Him alone. That should be evidence enough”. The woman returned a month later and the priest asked if God had appeared to her again. She said He had. “Did you put the question to him?” “I did”. “And what did He say?” “He said: ’Tell your priest that I have forgotten his sins”.
God forgives and forgets our sins, because he is love (1 Jn 4:8). He does not ruminate the evil that we have committed. He rejoices in our transformation and heals us through his Spirit (Jr 31:34). He does not take revenge. He transforms us and by transforming us he loves us with his infinite love. God is our loving father. He is pouring his love upon us, though we are sinners and unfaithful. He trusts our goodness. He sends his rain upon good and bad, and provides his gifts to all his children. Like a good shepherd, he leaves ninety-nine faithful sheep and goes in search of one that is lost. he is ever willing to forgive. Jesus has revealed his forgiving love throughout his life and particularly in his suffering, death and resurrection. Even when dying on the cross, Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.
Jesus not only sets us an example of forgiving love, but he also TAUGHT US to forgive seventy-seven times. We must forgive because our heavenly father forgives. If we want to experience god’s mercy, we have to get rid of revenge, bitterness and hatred. Jesus himself faced misunderstandings, rejection, betrayal, ingratitude, deceit from those whom he loved, served and healed. Yet he sets us an example by his willingness to love and forgive repeatedly. We also face this situation of suffering because of the shortcomings and limitations of those who surround us. but we have no other way than to be like our heavenly father, whose children we are.
In the Eucharist we celebrate the love of Jesus, who calls us to forgive, to heal, to reinstate again as our friends. Jesus respects our freedom. Like the father of the lost son, he is watching and waiting for us, his children, to come home, to love again. We can love again to the point of loving our enemies, because he gives us a transfusion of his own life and love. He waits for us till we open the doors of our hearts. When we open our hearts to our Saviour, we receive new life, we become “new man”, “new creation”.
We find it hard to love, to forgive, and to trust those who have hurt us and let us down. Our society is divided on the grounds of class, language, religion, gender, race. Husbands and wives go through traumatic experiences when they hurt each other. Parents find it so difficult to correct their own children, because today nobody accepts correction easily, without self-defense. Teachers cannot cope up with their students who find them fallible. Employers cannot tolerate one another’s imperfections. Priests and religious brothers and sisters find so difficult to live with one another. We may try to adopt the ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude and to criticize, to moralize, to condemn, to point out faults with a self-righteous attitude. We may try to grab power in every encounter with out neighbour and show our superiority. We may hurt our brothers and sisters with harsh words. We may try to build up walls instead of bridges. This is not what our heavenly Father wants from us. This is not to be Christ-like. This attitude only hampers our development and progress. The love of Jesus demands that we accept and respect the ‘other’ as s/he is, if we are to spread God’s Kingdom and its values.
Let us remind ourselves that we are channels of God’s love. Let us open ourselves more and more to God’s life-giving love. Let us resolve to love even when we feel unloved, sidetracked, let down. Let us decide to forgive them from our hearts…
AD MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM.
Homily # 4
Every one here has at one time or another been wounded by someone or, at least, we believe we have been hurt or offended. Every one of us carries scars from just living and the way in which life can be cruel and hurtful at times. Because of this we can accumulate a tremendous burden of resentments, grudges, hatred and anger. We all know someone who has nursed a grudge for years and who is consumed with their anger, justified or not. Sometimes those wounds are slight and sometimes serious and extreme, especially if at the hands of someone we love and trust. These wounds can be real and our anger justified.
My father had two cousins who never married and lived together their entire lives, well into their eighties. At some point in their late teens they had a disagreement, and event they never forgot nor forgave. They refused to talk to each other for the rest of their lives. They lived and died bitter, spiteful and unhappy women. Other people avoided them because they were so unpleasant to be around. Their entire lives were consumed with their hatred and anger. What a terrible loss.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the solution to our anger and wounds. “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.” He asks us to love our enemies and to good to those who harm and hate us. The key is forgiveness, to forgive those who wound us and hurt us not matter how severe those wounds. A deacon friend of mine had his belief in the virtue of forgiveness put to the test when his 18 year old daughter was murdered by two men in the process of robbing their home. She was murdered in a brutal and unnecessary way. At first, he was enraged and his anger, although justified, consumed him. He said that it was with him night and day and he thought of little else but his wounds and his anger. But eventually he also recalled the words of Christ that His followers must be willing to forgive, no matter what the injury. That to continue to hate was contrary to everything that Jesus taught. He said that the moment he came to the point where he could truly forgive the two murderers, through much prayer, there was a sense of peace that was tangible as he let go of his anger and hatred. To be able to forgive brought closure to me, he said. Forgiveness is at the very core of Christianity and is the most divine thing anyone can do. Forgiving frees we who are victims of wounds to go on with our lives. Forgiving does not mean that the wound will disappear, but it will allow you to be able to live with that wound. My deacon friend said that while he was consumed with his anger, he was unable to perform his duties at work or church with any degree of efficiency. But when he freed himself by forgiveness, he regained his sense of humor and became more of himself.
Jesus means for us to struggle through our feelings of righteous anger and resentment until we find the thread of mercy and forgiveness that breaks the cycle of hatred and anger, or resentment and revenge. The virtue of forgiving can be the result of a long process of recalling the hurtful incident and then letting it go. Another’s actions may have been wrong and destructive. But that dies not make that person an unforgivable person, no matter what the wrong. We must make the choice to forgive another despite our feelings to the contrary. That choice truly leads us to freedom.
The virtue of forgiveness finds its fullest expression in the challenge of Jesus to love our enemies. His very life is an example to us of forgiveness from the very start of his public ministry to his forgiveness of the thief on the cross. We are all the recipients of that divine forgiveness. No matter how far any of us has strayed from God, He always gives us a way back to Him and is ready to forgive us. God touches us in our sinfulness, which is part of our very humanity, and is there to forgive us. God’s forgiveness is the love He has for us that reaches into the dark spaces of our failings and brokenness, raises us up, and holds us in the palm of His hand until we are healed. The love of God and His willingness to forgive us gradually leads us from our sinful ways to a life of grace and purpose.
Jesus calls us to be forgiving people. He calls us to ask for forgiveness from those we have wounded and to forgive those who have wounded us. This is our call today as followers of Christ. “Pardon and you will be pardoned – Forgive and you will be forgiven”. Is there someone you need to ask for forgiveness today for some wound you inflicted? Is there someone you need to forgive today for something they did to you? DO IT! In doing it, forgiveness will make you free.
Homily # 5
Paul reminds the Corinthians and us that while we are human and earthly beings, because we are all descendent from Adam, we are heavenly beings, as well, as disciples of Jesus Christ through our baptism. Last Sunday we heard Jesus proclaim the attitudes that we are to have if we want to be blessed by God. These Beatitudes are the blue print for building our lives as disciples. Today Jesus gives us the step by step instructions to build the attitudes that will complete our transformation into heavenly beings disposed for union with God. These building instructions are clear, concise, and unambiguous.
First, we are to love as God loves – everyone – No exceptions, No conditions. We are to love enemies just as if they were our closest friends. Of course, loving means we wish the best for them, we help them and pray for them.
Second, when we are mistreated we do not offer anything but kindness, even when it might require sacrifice on our part (i.e. “from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic”).
Third, give without expectation of repayment.
Fourth, stop judging and condemning. The disciple who loves and offers kindness does not behave this way.
And finally, be sure to forgive – this is how we will obtain forgiveness.
Jesus concludes these instructions with a description of what the final product will look like if we form ourselves into beings with these heavenly attitudes. We will be gifted in good measure, so good that the gifts will be overflowing.
And the final warning to listen and build according to the directions, is that the way we measure others will be the measure used by God ( the Master Builder) to measure us.
In the first reading we hear how David refused to be swayed by the politically correct wisdom of the day and kill his enemy Saul, but recognized Saul as one loved by God and so behaved with the correct Attitude.
We Americans are easily distracted from these building instructions. We are used to doing things our way. We are “free”, we have “rights”. People have to watch out if they cross us, threaten us, cheat us, or harm us. We have the power. With police, the courts, money, and even the military to make sure we get what we want and deserve. As this election year unfolds, and the rhetoric builds about what is wrong and right with our American way of life, let us not forget to use the heavenly standards given by Jesus to measure if we are on the right track or not. What kind of ATTITUDES have we built in our hearts. What kind of attitudes have we supported in our government? What kind of attitudes have we pushed for in our laws?
Can we expect to be forgiven as individuals or even as a nation, if we have not forgiven. Can we expect to continue being gifted in good measure if we continue to judge, condemn, hate, and refuse to share with others, especially with those in greatest need whether they are our friends our not?
Remember the last Beatitude? “Blessed are you when people hate you, and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice, your reward will be great in heaven.” Our reward for building the “Right Attitudes of Being” is in heaven not here on earth.
As we struggle to implement these clear, concise, and unambiguous instructions to transform ourselves into heavenly beings, let us not forget the presence of Jesus Christ who is with us – Emmanuel. He will help us, he will strengthen us, he will love us and show us the way. In a few moments we will come forward to commune with our God and to be one body in the Lord. Let us offer ourselves to the Master Builder, to remold us to be closer to his image and likeness.
PRAISE GOD! – PRAISE GOD! – PRAISE GOD!
Homily # 6
Today’s Gospel is truly a challenge to almost everybody. After all, it is not easy to love your enemies, is it? Jesus calls those who follow him to a higher standard. The love he calls us to is to be pro-active. It is not the kind of love that says, “I love humanity. It is just my neighbor that I cannot stand”. Here is a cute little story that may illustrate the pro-active love that Jesus calls us to. We know it by another name-The Golden Rule.
One day, a mother happened to overhear her daughter and a few of her friends concocting a scheme of revenge against another little girl who apparently had done something mean to them. Well, she took the girls aside and said, “It seems to me that you are doing to her exactly what you do not want her doing to you. That is not the Golden Rule that Jesus taught us, is it”? “Well”, replied one little girl, “The Golden Rule is OK for Sundays but, for every other day, I prefer to have an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Not exactly what Jesus taught!
And, that is exactly the way the world looks at things. It makes sense to most people to take revenge on their perceived enemies and to love only those who love you. The world is also quick to judge those with whom they disagree. The world lives as if God does not exist at all or, if God does exist, he does not particularly care about what we do or do not do.
Jesus calls us to a much higher standard. We are to live in such a way that our lives would make no sense at all, if God did not exist. That, my friends, is a real challenge. To live a ‘normal’ life, all we have to do are the things that the world does. We, however, are personally called by Jesus, not to live ‘normal’ lives, but to live ‘supernormal’ lives-lives that bring us closer to God-lives that the world cannot understand.
The words of Jesus cannot become mere slogans that we put on the bumpers of our cars or have framed to hang up on the walls of our homes. Jesus prefers that we speak and live his words in our everyday lives. The love that Jesus calls us to is not a noun-it is a verb-something done. That is the way Jesus lived and he wants us to do the same. We are to live every minute of our lives as if God truly exists.
To truly live as Christ wants us to live is not easy. The writer, G. K. Chesterton, said this about Christianity. “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried”.
Acting as if God does exist does not necessarily mean that we have to perform miracles. It means simply doing, from the eyes of God, what ought to be done, regardless of the consequences. Look, I realize that we cannot do everything for everybody. Nobody can. But, it still did not deter Jesus from healing some people, even though he could not cure everybody. Jesus did not stop forgiving people just because they would sin again. He raised people from the dead, even though he knew that they would die again. He did what he could do and presumed that his heavenly father would make something good out of it. Jesus lived as God lived and he wants us to do the same.
And, we can do that! We can forgive someone even if they do not want to be forgiven. We can work hard even if no one notices. We can give others credit. Instead of yelling at our children when they do something wrong, we can tell them that we, too, made (and make) many mistakes too and that we love them regardless of their mistakes. These, and many other ideas, are good things and usually unexpected. After all, if we do only what is expected, how can we or anybody else, for that matter, know that there is a God in heaven, who calls us to a higher standard?
So, with Lent beginning next week, let us raise the bar regarding the Golden Rule. Instead of just doing unto others as we would like them to do to us, let us do what Jesus wants us to do. Let us “Do unto others as God would do unto them”. So, this Lent, do something ‘unreasonable’, in the eyes of the world. Show them that God really exists.
Homily # 7
I know of someone who was going out for dinner who enjoyed desserts. When he ordered he always asked that he could receive a little more or bigger portion. The server would always get a laugh out it. I do believe that sometimes he did get a little bigger portion than the rest.
That’s the image from the Gospel that I have when it mentions “a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.” Of course we will get a bigger portion if we can act according the Gospel: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.” To love as Jesus did without judgment and with forgiveness. What key concepts for us to reflect on this weekend.
We have a great example in the first Book of Samuel with David and Saul. Saul was out to seek David’s life. Remember that David had killed Goliath and received more praises than King Saul. Saul felt that David was trying to take his place as King and felt very threatened. In this account that we have today David is given the opportunity to take the life of Saul. He chooses not to do so. He chose to take the spear and the water jug which were at the head of Saul. This was a sure indication of what David could have done, but chose not to do so. Even though Saul had no respect for David, he had respect for Saul as God’s anointed and it was not his responsibility to punish Saul for his sins.
How many opportunities do we have that we are in the situation similar to Saul and David? What kind of decisions have we made when being like David in our past? I know that I have not always been the compassionate and forgiving person that Jesus challenges us to be in the Gospel. How do we rise above ourselves? I believe that we can do this with the Eucharist and personal prayer. We have the opportunity at every Eucharist to receive the Lord Jesus. The Lord lives within us. The Lord can transform us. We have to be like the clay in the potter’s hand. To be pliable clay we must be open to the will of God in our lives. We must give up some of the control that we enjoy and seem to want to have in our lives. To open our lives to the Lord and His will is an act of faith and trust. It is to let the Lord be in control and we to submit to His control. How often do fight change in our lives? How often do fall into old habits?
Thus when we are in the situation and we know that our emotions want to rule us; it is a time to pray and lift this up to the Lord. This may be the most difficult time to make decisions for us because it demands a lot of control on our part. It a time to find strength, wisdom and patience beyond ourselves. This is the time for prayer. A time for us to be present to the Lord and His grace. We can make the right decision and be like Jesus. The Lord worked through David and He can work through us. Let us pray for each other that we might let Christ rule in our hearts and our lives.
What? Love my enemies?
By Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD
WHEN someone tells you: “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors,” you might say, “Did I hear you right?” Or if he meant it, “Has the guy taken leave of his senses?”
How in the world can you “love” someone who has raped your daughter or sister or killed a brother, or a husband who’s unfaithful? How can you pray for someone who keeps on backbiting you or has damaged your reputation through intrigues?
Difficult, right? But this is precisely what Christ teaches in this 7th Sunday’s gospel (Lk 6:27-38).
* * *
The story of David (in the first reading) illustrates this point. Saul hated the much-admired David; he had become insanely jealous of him. He pursued him to get rid of him.
When David had the opportunity to assassinate Saul who was asleep together with his soldiers, he refused to do so despite the prodding of Abishai, his righthand man. Such was David’s noble heart.
* * *
Forgiveness does not come easily or naturally. Retribution or getting even seems to be the more common response to wrongdoings. One man once said, “I forgive my enemies but I remember their faces.” In various cultures, the underlying principle is: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
But as the charismatic leader and advocate of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If we live by an ‘eye for an eye’ kind of justice, the whole world would be blind today!”
* * *
When Christ said, “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you,” He was not asking us to have nice feelings towards our enemies. He is saying that we should not wish evil to befall on him or take revenge.
To love is not necessarily to like. Loving involves willing; liking involves feeling.
* * *
When we seek revenge, nobody wins. Perhaps you say, “Ah, but my enemy loses when I inflict damage on him.” I know a family in the Ilocos whose relative was killed by a member of a neighbor-family in a heated altercation. The aggrieved family didn’t file charges in court; instead they got even one day by killing a close relative of the culprit. Do you think that evened the score?
* * *
No, an attempt on the life of the father sparked another cycle of violence and the vendetta had gone so deep that the services of security guards became necessary.
The tense situation dragged on for months until one day the warring families realized the futility of it all.
Through intermediaries, they sat down and finally buried their proverbial hatchets. Vengeance never evens the score. It induces the injured and injurer to an endless cycle of retaliation.
* * *
But isn’t Jesus’ teaching of non-retaliation to evil condoning evil? Perhaps the example of Pope John Paul II can provide a glimpse of an answer.
Although the Pope had forgiven Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish who had attempted to assassinate him on May 13, 1981, Agca remained in jail for some years to atone for his crime. So it’s possible to forgive and love an enemy, but justice is still served.
* * *
Is there someone whom you find hard to forgive? Or with whom you’re not in talking terms with for months and years? To reach out a hand of forgiveness is not easy.
But we have to put into practice Christ’s teaching of forgiveness in our daily life – if we are to be called true followers of Christ.
* * *
APPEAL. A friend of mine relates a hit-and-run incident on Rizal Avenue, Sta. Cruz, Manila last Feb. 07 at around 8 p.m.
Some men going home from work were crossing Rizal Avenue when a speeding passenger jeepney hit one of the men. As the driver fled, he shouted, “Hold-up doon” (there’s a holdup there) to distract the people from stopping him.
* * *
Because of the ruse, the bystanders didn’t get his plate number.
The victim, Milbert E. Malinao, 21, was rushed to a hospital in Tondo and later transferred to the National Orthopedic Hospital in Banawe, Quezon City because his legs were paralyzed apparently due to injured spinal column.
* * *
The relatives are appealing to the driver or any of the jeepney passengers to have a heart and come out in the open if only to help the victim who’s very poor.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle C