Gospel Luke 6:27-38
May the Holy Spirit enlighten us for this moment, to open our hearts and eyes to receive all the graces that He has kept for us.
My dear brothers and sisters, today’s Liturgy is challenging us to do something that is really difficult. In order to love our enemy, we need to take the first step, which is forgiving that enemy. It is not only in the spiritual world. Among the most recommended therapies in psychology, the first thing they ask from the patient is forgiveness. But Jesus goes beyond – forgive even your enemies. “But I say to you who hear me, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…” Therefore to love one’s enemies is equivalent to forgiving them.
Secondly, this teaching is certainly the most disturbing, even for the closest and most faithful disciple. Because the question that immediately arises is – How can I forgive my enemy? – and this feeling is natural and human. If someone has offended you, if someone has done something wrong to you, automatically antipathy, breaking up and distancing comes naturally. These feelings are psychological. We think, if I forgive him, what will they think about me? Behind this is pride. From a human perspective, it is ok and makes sense to do to the other what I would like done to me. But Jesus requires something beyond common sense, psychological and social feelings. Jesus asks us practical and moral teachings – “love enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who slander…” This is too demanding for us mortals. If it were simply a law it would be impossible, but my dear brothers and sisters, it is the Gospel of the Lord. If we are Christians, Baptised, and hoping for eternal life, the Gospel is saying, forgive your enemies.
There are no conditions for approaching God, but there is a consequence of God approaching human beings. In Genesis, God was the first to approach human beings who became enemies and to forgive the enemies. In the same way, when humanity sees that Jesus came towards us, we can do the same to our enemies.
Another reason for accepting this Gospel is in Luke 6:36 – “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.” We are not saying that forgiveness means ignoring what has happened. This is impossible. We are not asking you to put on a false attitude on acts of evil. But forgiveness means to break up the symbol of evil. That is explained, when someone hits you on one cheek, you give them the other. There is a profound theological meaning in that. In this time for the Jews, the right hand does a lot of things, so touching anything was considered impure. Therefore if someone hits you with the right hand, it takes out your dignity and makes you impure. That’s why Jesus says; give the other cheek with humility, because when he hits you again, it gives you back your dignity.
Indeed forgiveness and mercy are not natural. When something difficult happens, we say, I can’t it is too strong for me. There are mechanisms that make forgiveness difficult – frustration, something has been taken out of us, my dignity was taken away, and we don’t feel the gratification of revenge. In short, when we forgive we feel that something of me has been lost.
However brothers and sisters, we have to admit that loving enemies, those who confront, defy and challenge us, is the only way to heal ourselves and to change the culture of violence. It’s the only way to break the cycle of evil. If we say that we follow Jesus Christ, then we cannot adopt an aggressive or violent stance to resolve a situation of injustice. What characterises all of us as Baptised, is the willingness to dialogue, to take the first step towards meeting, reconciliation and forgiveness. This will give us the capacity to love our enemies. It is difficult, I agree, but let us start with the process. Take the first step, start praying for that person, start asking the Holy Spirit for strength to forgive that person. Because forgiveness is the catalyst that creates the conditions necessary for us to begin again – from the family, from the society, where you work and from the Church.
The choice is yours if you want to start forgiving your enemies, to be freed from despair and live within the Gospel of the Lord, or if you want to remain in the hardness of your hearts and in pride, and out of the Gospel. Make your choice, Jesus is inviting you. Amen.