7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 24, 2019 (Thoman)
I Sam 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23, I Cor 15:45-49, Lk 6:27-38
“To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic….
Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
I. Has anyone ever hurt you? Have you ever been betrayed? Have you been the
victim of injustice? Have you been wronged? Do you have any scars just from
the day-in-day-out, year-to-year ups and down of living?
If you haven’t had any experiences like this, stop and introduce yourself after
Mass: I’d like to meet you!
Of course, anyone who has even lived just a few years knows what it is like to
be hurt, bruised and abused from the challenges of even ordinary living. And
there are a lot of us who have experienced serious forms of injustice. We’ve
experienced deep hurt which can take years to manage and deal with.
The comfort in this is that Jesus is talking to us! When Jesus was giving his
Sermon on the Mount (which today’s gospel is part of) Jesus was talking with
ordinary people, common people just like you and me. He was not talking to the
powerful who have greater control over their lives, the privileged few, the royal
and comfortable. So he knows he is talking to people who have experienced
injustice and he knows that what he is saying is calling for heroic virtue.
II. As with most people, I, too, have experienced the hurts of living, the injustices,
the feelings of being taken advantage of, taken for granted and betrayed. I know
there are people who have had to face much deeper hurts than I will ever know.
But, as I said, it comes to everyone, in some form, eventually.
The question is…what to do about it? How to manage it? How to respond?
III. At first glance, what Jesus asks of us seems almost humanly impossible…love
your enemies….pray for those who mistreat you…turn the other cheek….if
someone steals from you…give them some more! Who wants to love an
enemy?! Who wants to be generous with a thief?!
But if we look closely, Jesus is really saying…don’t allow yourself to continue
to be a victim. Take initiative. Take the higher road. Be proactive. Don’t let
them to continue to hurt you.
There is a great feeling of empowerment in that. There is an enhanced sense
of freedom. It helps us feel as though we have some control over our lives and
the direction we take.
In the first reading we see David taking the higher moral road. Saul and his
army of three thousand men where chasing after him seeking to kill him. All
David had was himself and his buddy Abishai. When the Lord delivered Saul into
David’s hands, David could have killed him outright. But instead he took Saul’s
spear which was the symbol of his authority to prove to Saul that he could have
done it, but David did not want to be guilty of murder before God. David did not
take the ordinary path of retaliation, but instead showed he had greater integrity.
IV. That is the path Jesus asks us to take: to be men and women of integrity. That
doesn’t mean it’s easy and it doesn’t mean our choice of integrity is going to
change anything, especially those who hurt us.
But at the very least we are changing ourselves. We are freeing ourselves from
victimization. At the very least we free ourselves from the prison of anger and
resentment. If we don’t do that, then the hurt inflicted upon us will continue to
fester and continue to harm us greatly. But whatever we can do to work
forgiveness and move on will help to enhance our sense of peace and well-being.
I recall when I was severely betrayed, I prayed for forgiveness. It wasn’t easy
and it didn’t happen in one prayer of forgiveness. It was repeated prayers of
forgiveness, many times, reworked even over several years. But by now I have
let it go and don’t even think of it anymore.
But, like anyone, the hurts of a lifetime will build up and fester within us if we
don’t do something about it. Jesus is telling us to do something about it…stop
judging…stop condemning…forgive…be generous. “For the measure with which
you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
V. To do these things Jesus asks will open us to God’s grace working within us – and
perhaps, much to our surprise, we may find ourselves doing things we thought
-- Fr. Dwayne Thoman