BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa


HOMILY: The story of David’s response to Saul’s hostility is one of the most instructive stories about how to respond to hatred. King Saul opposed David and sought for ways to kill him. He went down to the wilderness of Ziph in search of David. After a long period of search, he was tired and fell into a deep sleep with his commander Abner. In the spot where he slept, he kept his spear carelessly stuck in the ground. David found Saul in that deep sleep and had an opportunity to strike him. He wisely refused to kill Saul because it was not right to kill an anointed man. Abishai, David’s soldier could not understand why David should hesitate in crushing his enemy. Jesus instructed his listeners about how to relate with enemies in a section of the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Luke. There are several themes in this Gospel passage and I found it challenging to capture these themes under one heading. The themes include forgiveness, love of enemies and generosity. Jesus does not only teach about forgiving the enemy, but asks his followers go the extra mile to love and pray for their enemies; “Give to everyone who asks of you”, says Jesus. What is more, Jesus reiterates the famous golden rule which says, “As you wish that men should do to you, do so to them.” Notably, Jesus took his listeners beyond the conventional golden rule by teaching his disciples to go the extra mile. That extra mile is to love without expecting anything in return and to love even those who ignore them. That is not all, he asks them to be generous, not only to those from whom they can get something in return, but to people who cannot afford to pay back such generosity. Jesus wants his followers to imitate God who is constantly kind even to both the ungrateful and selfish. He had more to say to his disciples, he instructed them to be merciful as God is merciful and that they should neither judge nor condemn others. More still, he wanted them to understand that when they forgive others, God will forgive them their sins and when they are generous, God will even be more generous to them.

Vima Dasan, a commentator of scriptures attempts to capture the multiple themes in this passage of the gospel with the title, “The Golden chain.” In my opinion, two words may as well capture this chain of virtues, which Jesus prescribes. The words are Mercy and Magnanimity. Mercy is a more familiar word, magnanimity, may sound more strange and the pronunciation seems to be a mouthful, but the meaning makes sense. Mercy requires us to be sensitive to the needs of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is kindness to all, including those who do not deserve our kindness. Magnanimity is derived from latin magna-animus which means big soul or spirit. Therefore, not to be magnanimous is to have a small heart and this implies being intolerant, stingy, and unforgiving. In short, magnanimous people are people who have a large heart and bear no grudge, free from resentment, generous in giving and in forgiving.

Wait a minute! Is love of enemy not equivalent to telling us to love a scorpion or a snake that has every intention of harming us? We have a natural tendency to attack our enemies before they harm us, or at least to keep them at arm’s length so that they do not have the opportunity to hurt us. It takes supernatural grace for anyone to love his enemies, let alone bless or pray for them.

In the Old Testament, especially the Psalms, we find several prayers crying to God to deliver us from the hands of our enemies, opponents and adversaries. For example, the Psalmist prays against the enemy saying “Let his days be few; and let another take his office”(Psalm 109:8) and adds “O God, break the teeth in their mouths” (Psalm 58:6).

So, how could Jesus ask us to love our dreaded and dangerous enemies? Several prominent authors have attempted to explain the wisdom in loving our enemies. M.L. King (Jnr), the civil rights activist says, Jesus asks us to love our enemies because “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” From a philosophical perspective, Frederick Nietzsche says we should love our enemies because they bring out the best in us. According to G.K. Chesterton, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbour, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.”

In conclusion, let the teaching of Jesus be translated into our daily lives. Let us ask God for the grace to love our enemies and to be magnanimous. Jesus did not only instruct His disciples about the need to forgive enemies, but He practiced what he preached. When he was hanging on the cross, he was praying for his enemies. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).



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