Sunday, 20 February 2011
7th Sunday in Ordinary time, Year A, Shaftesbury
Mt 5:38-48; Lev 19:1-2.17-18
The Lord Jesus, as we know, had a great many questions that people put to Him. Like, for example, the question, “What is the greatest commandment?”, or the question relating to the commandment to love our neighbour, "Who is my neighbour?"
Perhaps, a more interesting question would have been for someone to ask Him, "Who is my enemy?"
I have days when I think that I could answer that with quite a long list! It's a question I could answer quite easily, but I might need a lot of ink in my pen to do write them all down!
You too probably have days when you could draw up quite a list for that one as well.
However, nobody asked Jesus the question, "Who is my enemy?"
If they had I think I might dare to venture and tell you what answer I think that Jesus would have given: I think this would have been another example of an answer where Jesus would have turned the question on its head.
If Jesus was to answer the question, "Who is my enemy?", I think He would have answered NOT by describing who treats us as our enemy, but rather, but how we should treat the person who is our enemy, namely, the answer I think He might have given is this:
"Who is my enemy?"
“Your enemy is your neighbour” –because Jesus took the command to love our neighbour and said that we must love our enemy too.
Now, of course, pretty much by definition, my enemy does not SEEM to be my neighbour, does not seem to be the person I should love.
Jesus, however, taught the crowds and teaches us the fundamental reason why my enemy and I are on an equal footing:
the same good God loves both of us.
The same "Father in heaven... causes His sun to rise on bad men as well is good, and His rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike”(Mt 5:45)
and we might add that Jesus died out of love for those who killed Him just as truly as He died for those who followed Him. He died for Caiaphas and Pilate as much as He died for Peter, James and John.
So Jesus concluded, "You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect"(Mt 5:48), i.e. love your enemy just as your heavenly Father loves him.
"Who is my enemy?"
I could answer that by saying: he is the person who frustrates my plans, he is the person who speaks ill of me, he is the person who stops me having an easy life.
Or, I could answer by saying: he is someone made by the same God who made me, he is someone made in the image of God just as truly as I am in the image of God, he is someone that God wishes to save just as truly as He wishes to save me.
And finally, HOW do I love my enemy? After all, for some reason he IS my enemy. What does loving him mean practically?
To love someone means to seek his welfare, his good (c.f. St Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II Q28 a3 ad3).
Sometimes that involves correction, involves pointing out where he has wronged me.
But always it involves me doing this, and other things, for HIS benefit, because it is good FOR HIM. This is love. This is love for my enemy.
If I would love the good God who loves me,
if I would love those whom the good God would have me love,
then I must love not merely the brother who is agreeable and pleasant to me,
I must love not merely the neighbour who is at least not un-pleasant to me,
but rather, I must love my enemy .