YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
BY: Fr. Benny Tuazon
HOMILY: (Mt. 5:38-48) Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel Jesus taught His apostles to love their enemies and offer no resistance to evil. While others prefer to take revenge and hate those who had offended them, the Christian loves, offers the other cheek, lends to those who borrow, go another mile, provides even to those who violate them. These are new and radical teachings them and even now. They reach the rock bottom of our senses and being. The First reading gave a good introduction to this. Moses and his people were told to be holy because God is holy. Holiness entails not hating neighbor and exacting revenge. They can reprove but take care not to commit sin in doing so. The key given by God was to love the neighbor like ourselves.
Honestly, this teaching of Jesus had put my and others’ faith in crisis so many times. Forgiveness is nothing compared to this teaching. I admit that I had violated it and had grappled with it. While I did not reach a point when I did not agree with it, I must also admit that I had not fully understood it. But because it was commanded by the Lord, I tried to live it in faith. The battle inside me, my mind, heart, and soul had always been intense whenever I am confronted by this situation. The urge to retaliate and humiliate the other was so strong especially when I knew that I am right and have the goods to do so. The temptation to ram it through someone’s throat was so inviting that it took so much self-control not to do so. At times I triumphed, at times I failed. But it is good to reflect deeper on what Jesus really wants us to do and why we must do it.
Exegetes and most commentaries will tell us that Jesus gave the teaching so that evil will not escalate if not stopped. When we retaliate, we add another evil to society. The Christian is expected never to commit sin even in addressing evil. It is up to us to find creative ways of dealing with evil but never to join their company in being evil doers. This explanation is true and makes a lot of sense. We have heard of stories between enemies, families at odds against each other, and armies at war between countries who never stopped killing each other until there is only one man or woman standing. The evil of revenge is more devastating than the first crime committed. The ache to get even, unfortunately, does not even up the situation. Lives sacrificed can never be revived and returned. Having one dead from each camp is only even in numbers. But they will never even up the feelings and torture of knowing that one is dead.
The other reason, if we may consider it as one, is very much related to the above interpretation. There is something in the Gospel today that I believe holds part of, if not the key to this commandment to love our enemies. It is found at the last part of the First Reading which reads, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Come to think of it. Think hard about this. If we will always place ourselves in the person of the other, whoever that person is and whatever he/she has done, we can love that person. Will our grudges and pain against the person disappear? No.
But we know that loving is not a feeling. Loving is unconditional and is not based on how you looked, what you have done, or what you have said. Loving is a decision we make because we understand the person and we know what it takes to be where and how that person is. We love because we belong to the same human race and were created in the image and likeness of God.
How many mothers had defended their wayward children in public and professed that they may have done some evil but they are really good? How many people had been deceived, denied, and betrayed by their friends and still proclaim that in spite of those evil acts, they still love them and consider them friends? How many Christians, lay and priests, had been bashed, humiliated, accused with lies, and defamed yet remain in the faith and looked at their detractors with love and understanding? Only because they saw in the other their own selves and God’s presence were be they able to forgive, much more continue to love them. As I have said, this is not a walk in the park teaching. As Jesus said, this is how they will know we are Christians – the way we love each other and others.
The challenge to love continues…and we will never get tired doing so.