7th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father . . .”  The kind of love that Jesus calls us to in today’s Gospel is completely contrary to our human nature.  It is easy to love those who love us; it is impossible to love our enemies without the assistance of divine grace.  Yet with God’s grace all things are possible.

Jesus calls us to this extraordinary kind of love and He models this kind of love for us: He prays for those who are driving the nails into His hands and feet.  Jesus calls us to imitate Him.  Jesus calls us to this love and tells us that this is the kind of love that we are to have that we may be children of our heavenly Father.  God is love and Jesus calls us to be perfect as our Father is perfect, therefore we are called to love as God loves.  The more perfectly we love, the more perfectly we bear the image of God.

True love is a choice: it is a decision that we make.  Loving your enemies is not about a warm feeling; it’s about making a decision to love.  Loving our enemies doesn’t mean that we have to be doormats: we can stand up against injustice but we must always do so with charity in our hearts, never out of anger.  That is a real challenge.  When someone hurts us, or hurts someone we love, feeling angry is our natural response.  Feeling angry because someone has hurt us is not, in itself sinful: anger is a natural reaction to the wound that the other person has caused us: sin is always a choice that we freely make.  If we choose to act in an uncharitable way because of our anger, if we choose to have uncharitable thoughts, or speak uncharitable words, or if we choose to vent our anger in our actions, then we fall into sin.  Our Lord calls us to keep control over our hearts and not allow ourselves to be mastered by our passions.  When He was scourged and mocked and crowned with thorns He opened not His mouth.

We do not accomplish anything if we give in to anger.  Lashing out in anger does not improve our situation.  It might make us temporarily feel better to vent our anger, but in the long run, it does not help us, and we later end up regretting things done and said in anger, and we can never take those words or actions back.

Harboring a grudge also does not help our situation; it does not heal our broken relationship.  Holding on to a grudge takes a lot of energy and it can really tear us down and stress us out.  Besides the immediate negative effects to ourselves, refusing to forgive is also sinful: it affects our relationship with God.  Jesus taught us to pray that we be forgiven our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  If we desire mercy we have to show mercy to others.

How, then, are we to deal with the anger that we feel when someone hurts us?  Jesus calls us to forgive.  Forgiveness, like love, is not a feeling: it is an act of the will; it is a choice.  Forgiveness, like love, is not always an easy choice.  Sometimes it might be all that we are able to do is ask the Lord for the grace to be able to forgive someone.  The important thing is to bring the wound and the resulting anger to the Lord and ask Him for healing for the situation.  Forgiving someone who has hurt me does not instantly heal the wound that causes the anger and therefore the anger does not immediately dissipate.  Forgiveness often takes time.  If the wound is deep, it can take a long time to heal.  I may have to renew my forgiveness of someone many times for the same action.  As often as I am tempted to anger over a past hurt I ought to renew my forgiveness or renew my prayer asking God to help me forgive that person.

If we only love those who love us, we have already received our reward.  If we cooperate with God’s grace and love our enemies and forgive those who trespass against us, then we will grow in virtue and in love.  By choosing to forgive and choosing to love we become more perfectly conformed to Jesus Christ and we grow towards that perfection to which He calls us.

Lord Jesus Christ, we need your grace to be able to live the love that you command us to have.  Give us the strength to choose to love others, even those that we find hard to love.  Help us, Lord, to grow in true love; help us to forgive others as we hope to be forgiven. Amen.

 

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