Q255: Lend without expecting to get anything back? Love and forgive my enemies? Give to everyone who asks something from me? If someone takes my trousers, I’m to give them my underwear as well? Hey, isn’t this “mission impossible”?
Jesus really seems to set the bar high in today’s Gospel (Lk 6:27-38), doesn’t he? Actually, the “bar” is not high at all; it is just not viewed properly by sinful humanity. Our God is always calling us to holiness. He wants us to be “fully human,” which means to “be” the image of God that he created us to be. And we cannot “be” that image without two things: the desire to change our fundamental attitudes, and the help of the Holy Spirit. Only through God’s grace, freely accepted, can we be transformed.
The challenge is to find a human role model who can show us that it is possible to be self-sacrificing. In the First Reading (1 Sam 26) we see David foregoing an opportunity to slay his enemy, Saul, who was trying to kill him. In the Second Reading (1 Cor 15:49) we hear St. Paul’s advice to bear the image of the Prince of Peace. But the ultimate solution is to look to Jesus Christ as our model of behavior. Even on the cross, he forgave his enemies and asked the Father to forgive them. Jesus showed us how to become selfless, to give all for the benefit of others, even his very own life. He did not come to condemn us, but to show us the way to live, to redeem us and become our salvation. His words in today’s gospel help us to focus on our attitudes towards everyone.
Lent is coming very soon. It is a time to refocus on true spirituality, becoming “fully human,” seeking to self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Our attitude must be that of Christ, as St. Paul teaches us (Phil 2:5). Now is the time to be forgiving, the time for prayer, for fasting, and for almsgiving. Each of these behaviors reflects the contents of our heart, and measures how well we “image” Jesus.
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! By having us focus on basic interior attitudes, Jesus is expressing the Golden Rule, which always applies (CCC #1789; 1970). Being merciful and perfect like the Father has to come from within, by the power of the Holy Spirit (CC #2842); so beg the Spirit to strengthen you and empower you to live as a true image of Jesus. May this Lenten season become radical grace for each of us!
Q. 411: Love your enemies, turn the other cheek, pray for your persecutors… is this Gospel today (Luke 6:27-38) about “dreaming the impossible dream”?
That phrase comes from the Joe Darion song in 1965, immortalized by the 1965 stage play about “Don Quixote” and by the 1966 recording by Frank Sinatra. It speaks of an “unbeatable foe,” and suffering “unbearable sorrow,” as well as righting the “unrightable wrong.” The advice that Jesus gives in today’s Gospel is a lot like that. Nevertheless, the only option he offers is that of loving everyone, including our enemies and those who hurt us.
Jesus was aware that only love can stop the cycle of hatred. He knew that only if the “dream” became a reality it would come to fruition. We hear that repeated many times today by civic leaders. For example Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” President Woodrow Wilson didn’t live to see his “impossible dream” fulfilled of American leadership in a League of Nations; nevertheless, the United Nations was the result of his early vision. Jesus died on the cross for our salvation. He did not see his dream of everyone loving everyone else become a reality.
One of my friends, Fr. Jerry Fuller (†) made this comment: “Jesus’ words are what we call `counter-cultural’ in that they go against the philosophy of the world. For instance, in America 70% of the people believe in capital punishment. But Jesus tells us to forgive. A majority look down on welfare people, saying `Let them pull themselves up by their bootstraps like I did.’ If an enemy attacks our family or country, we immediately seek revenge, we certainly don’t turn the other cheek. So where is Jesus coming from? Has he just landed from Mars?” He goes on to say that only when we have Jesus’ words etched in our heart, and live them daily, will we be able to respond as Jesus did.
That is our challenge today, to put on the mind of Jesus, and trust in Him and love like Him!
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! One may never do evil so that good may result from it (CCC #1789). The Lord’s Prayer reminds us to forgive and to be merciful (CCC #2842) – and there is absolutely no limit to this forgiveness (CCC #2845). Make the impossible dream come true!