‘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 begs
from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to
others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those
who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love
them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?
For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to
receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive
as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in
return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High;
for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your
Father is merciful.
‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn,
and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it
will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running
over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure
you get back.’
Today’s Gospel reading in fact is the continuation of St.
Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. The first part of the version was read in the
last Sunday’s Gospel.
Jesus began the preaching with the words “I say to you that
listen”, which means that this preaching is to those who were willing to learn
from him because there were others in the audience who were already opposed to
what he did and said.
Love your enemies was a command, startling at that time,
when a man was not a man unless he avenged himself of his enemy. It is still a
command which human nature cannot fulfill without divine grace.
The application of the command of loving your enemies is not
in theory but in practice. That is to return your enemies good for evil. Ask
God to bless and forgive those who wish you evil, and do you evil in your
person and in your property.
It is not a simple request that one’s stolen property should
be returned, but the forceful retaking of it. Charity, real love of neighbor,
is show especially in our interest in his spiritual welfare. The loss of our
personal honour or property is a small price to pay for the eternal welfare of
It is the golden rule that do to others as you would have
them do to you. Love all others as we love ourselves – if we do we shall never
fail in charity. Of we love those who love us, we area acting from personal
interest here. However, if our motive in helping our neighbour is unselfish,
moved by real and true love for that neighbor, we will be rewarded and greatly
so. Further, we will be true children of God who is good and kind to the
ungrateful and he sinner.
Jesus asks us to leave judgment and condemnation to the only
one who knows all the facts, God. He will see very many redeeming qualities in
the behavior of those who to us appear absolutely evil. And very important for
ourselves, our judge will be lenient to us if we have shown leniency.
reminds us that God can never be outdone in generosity. If we are generous
toward out neighbor, God will be infinitely more generous toward us. If we act
meanly and ungenerously we cannot expect generosity when the of reckoning
I would at first sight appear that the demands that Jesus
makes on our charity here are anything but easy. Loving one’s enemies is asking
a lot. Blessing them and praying for them might be all right for St. Francis,
but expecting it of us seems to be going very far. Asking for a blow on the second
cheek while the first is still feeling with pain seems fit only for a martyr.
Not to try to take back what was stolen from us looks very foolish. Yet it was
Jesus who made all these demands.
Before we give up in despair, and decide that this type of Christianity
is not for us, let us look a little more closely at the demands that are made.
To love our enemy does not mean we must throw our arms about him every time we
meet him. It means we must do all in our power to rid our minds of any hatred
of him, and try to see the good that is in him. Not judging and condemning
comes under this heading. Human sinful beings that we are, our faculty of
seeing in our neighbor the real man as he is before God, is very limited and
very prone to error.
Not demanding back what was unjustly taken from us does not
mean that we may not have recourse to the legal or other means available to us
for obtaining compensation in such cases. What it does forbid is personal
restoration of our rights and property with force.
If someone offends us, he offends God which is much more
serious. Our charity should help him to seek God’s forgiveness. Our chief
interest in our neighbour must therefore be a spiritual interest. We would like
our neighbour to help us to reach heaven. “You go and do likewise” to your
neighbour, and you will both get there. Amen.