Sunday, 24 February 2019
Love Your Enemy, 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today’s Gospel text gives us one of the most beautiful and yet difficult Christian teachings: to love your enemy.
I want to immediately add that I think its also wonderfully PRACTICAL, rooted in real life:
The Lord does not tell us not to have enemies, rather, He tell us how we should behave towards them.
Having enemies is almost an inevitable part of life: your mother-in-law, the neighbour who just cut down your hedge, the boss at work who makes unreasonable demand and is itching for an excuse to fire you
-at different times in life, almost all of us will have had someone that relates to us as “enemy”.
But how are we to act towards them?
We’ve all heard the saying, “An eye for an eye”, about revenge.
It’s the teaching in the Old Testament -though what is often forgotten is that it was always intended as a LIMITING action: no more than an eye for eye.
The teaching of the New Testament raises us to an even higher standard:
To “love your enemy” -but what does that mean in practice?
Let me return to what a said about love a few weeks ago (4thSunOrdTimeYrC), but from a different angle.
I said that love is not just a feeling, it’s a decision of the will.
If someone is my enemy then I am very unlikely to FEEL loving towards him, but, I can CHOOSE, as a decision of will, to ACT in a loving way towards him.
To love someone, in terms of action rather than in terms of emotion,
to love someone means to “will good” to the other (CCC 1766, citing St. Thomas, ST I-II q26 a4):
Not to will evil upon them, but to will good for them, to will what is good for them.
We were given an example of this in our first reading, with Saul and David.
Who were David and Saul? Saul was king. But who were they to each other?
Saul was David’s father-in-law, and he was hunting down his son-in-law to kill him.
(Saul was neither the first nor the last father-in-law to hunt down his son-in-law.)
But how did David act towards Saul?
We might note, as an initial observation, that he acted justly, he observed the minimum required by God’s law, and he did not kill God’s king, “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 26:23).
More than this, however, as the full account in the book of Samuel describes, he acted in a way that was loving to Saul:
He did not damage Saul’s position as king;
He did not damage Saul’s relationship with his daughter (David’s wife, Michal);
He did not damage Saul’s relationship with his son (David’s best friend, Jonathan).
He could look and see what was good FOR SAUL, and he acted in a way consistent with that.
He wasn’t reconciled to Saul.
He didn’t become friends with Saul -they remained ‘enemies’, in that sense.
But, in how he acted, he chose what was good for his enemy, he thus LOVED his enemy.
You and I are called to do the same:
whether with your brother, your mother-in-law, or the disagreeable man who lives next door.
First, if possible, we should seek forgiveness and reconciliation -though that’s a different sermon.
Second, if that’s not possible, and someone is clearly going to be our “enemy”,
then, we need to remember that this person is known and loved by God,
We need to remember that God wants and wills what is GOOD for that person -and that means we need to honestly THINK about what is truly good for that person.
And if we do, then not only will we have behaved “beautifully”, not only will be have behaved in a way that will bring peace to ourselves, but, as the Lord Jesus promised, in the final analysis, from God, “the amount you measure out to others is the amount you will be given in return”(Lk 6:38).