February 23, 2014
ORDINARY 7 (C)
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father. – Mt. 5: 44-45
For most of us, the boundaries of our love are narrow & very exclusive. Perhaps we love the members of our family to some degree & maybe a few other people. We may talk about loving the poor, the lonely, the disadvantaged, but not with much conviction. It would be strange if we talked about loving our enemies. It is as if there were a huge paper clip around our life which prevents us from growing & expanding our spiritual horizons. So our life is closed to outsiders, to foreigners, to people who are “different.” For some, the only area of growth in life is their “enemies list.”
God, however, never gives up trying to liberate us from this narrowness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling us that there can be no peace on earth & no peace in our hearts until those giant paper clips are removed.
In the Old Testament story of Jonah & the Whale, Jonah refuses to proclaim God’s love & mercy to the people of Nineveh because they were on Israel’s “enemy list.” He represents a narrow & often vindictive nationalism – a “chosen people” mentality that places limits on God’s love & mercy. We see something similar in the New Testament. The disciples of Jesus were annoyed when he stopped to befriend the Samaritan woman at the well because she was a woman & a heretic. “Why is Jesus wasting His time on her?” they seem to be saying. “She is not one of us!” But He had come to change all that. They had yet to learn that Jesus would not organize them into a privileged elite. He had come to enlist them in a ministry of reconciliation.
Albert Schweitzer once wrote that “the power of ideals is incalculable. We see no power in a drop of water. But let it get into a crack in the rock & be turned into ice, & it splits the rock. Turned into steam, it drives the pistons of the most powerful engines. Something has happened to it which makes active & effective the power that is within it. So it is with ideals. Ideals are thoughts. So long as they exist merely as thoughts, the power latent in them remains ineffective. Their power is effective only when they are taken up into some refined personality.
The story of human life on earth, up to & including the present moment, has been anything but peaceful. As individuals, we rarely experience real peace of mind because there are so many pressures upon us, so many things pulling us in different directions. The word “Peace” connotes wholeness & unity, but we feel fragmented. Moreover, ever since Cain became envious of his brother Abel & reached for the nearest weapon to kill him, we’ve been doing the same thing. This tendency toward aggression & violence & hostility still plagues us. All of this goes on some 2,000 years after the Prince of Peace came to show us a better way.
We read the headlines & ask ourselves “What can we do about it? Jesus maintains that each one of us can be a part of the solution. Each of us has the opportunity to put the idea of reconciliation into action. Even if our pledge to Catholic Charities is a token one, it shows that we want to be a part of the solution.
In a letter to God, a little girl wrote, “Dear God, are you REAL? Some people don’t believe it. If you are you better do something quick.” (signed) Harriet Ann. Another wrote, “Dear God, my father is very smart. Maybe he could help you.” (signed) Margo.
In my imagination, I could see Jesus as a child giving a response to these two: “Dear world, MY Father is very smart. Maybe He could help you.” No maybe about it. But it won’t happen until we prove that we are sons & daughters of our heavenly Father, & follow the way He has shown us. We need to let the Holy Spirit refine our personalities so that we can make effective the power that remains latent in His
words. In short, we need to be “perfected, even as our heavenly Father is perfect.” AMEN!