The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
February 23, 2020 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5:38-48
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Today’s gospel contains what may be the most unpopular saying in the entire Bible. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is difficult to water down these words to make them more palatable and acceptable. They are bold. They cut deeply. They make many of us a little uneasy.
In the US right now we are in the early stages of the next presidential election. Already potential candidates are in attack mode. At times they are caustic and condemning of their opponents.
Commentators say these days that we live in a divided country. We are friends of those we agree with and enemies of those we don’t. The descriptors, “right and left” or “conservative and liberal” or “pro-life and pro-choice” describes not only political positions, but also deeply divisive personal stances. They can divide one neighbor from another or family members from each other. Debated issues can even bring division within a church. Fully inclusive love and acceptance seems rare in our day of political and social conflict.
Still, we have the words of Jesus, “Love your enemy.” Pray for them. And don’t forget that God loves everyone, even your worst enemy. That idea would not be on any banners of a candidate running for public office these days. If they did run on that platform, I doubt they would win in November.
So how might we read these words of Jesus. Their surface meaning seems clear. We might ask: Is God serious about loving one’s enemies? And even praying for them? That Jesus mentioned prayer connected with this “hard saying” might help us to work our way through what seems an impossible task. It’s in his reminder that God is the God of all. That God allows the sun to shine and the rain to fall on everyone.
God does not have preferences that are politically determined. Or measured against anyone’s personal beliefs or any other matter that might divide us. Again, God loves all. And that doesn’t mean that God approves of all that anyone does. But that’s another matter. Here we’re focusing on what is deeper and more important. Let us think about the fact that God does not turn away from those who have hurt us, rejected us or caused us harm in any way. Or from us when we fail to love fully. We are all sinners and need God’s merciful love. Starting with that belief, we might begin to move closer to our “enemies.”
©David M. Thomas, PhD