The Gospel according to Luke (6:27-38)
Jesus said to his disciples: “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. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, you came to return us to our Father who is the just judge that replaces our inequities with mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. May we take your living word today and seek to return your kindness by sharing the same gifts you so generously give to us.
Encountering Christ: I have been a fan of the western genre since I was a little boy and my grandfather would take me downtown to watch the latest John Wayne movie. Whether it is the big screen or a television series I can sit for hours watching. My wife teases me that every story has the three Rs, a Ranch, Romance, and Revenge. The plots are often simple and predictable. And, she is right most of the time, especially about Revenge.
Revenge, it seems, is an easily acceptable motive if one is victim to unscrupulous actions. We wait for the “bad” guy to get what he deserves. And we rally for the “good” guy until it happens. Often, we even cheer for the death of the one who deserves what he has coming.
This is a very primitive and even biblical approach to many situations. But leave it to Jesus to turn everything upside down. Here we are ready to launch the biggest stone we can lift so we can throw it at the sinner all in the name of justice and virtue. Doesn’t it make you wonder how in the world we ever got it so wrong? And why did God have to intervene by coming amongst us to set us straight?
It just seems we were destined to get it wrong when left on our own. And isn’t it ironic that we weren’t alone. Throughout history God has revealed himself and offered us guidance and even assistance to remain in relationship with him. In order for our pendulum to return to where it belongs we are called to go to extremes in the opposite direction we are used to and want to go.
Although we must understand that God would never advocate violence and crimes against anyone, that is not today’s lesson. Jesus is not trying to justify bad behavior; He is trying to remind us that there is but one just judge and we are not Him. We are called to love others as God loves us. Since when has love ever evoked thoughts of justice? Maybe revenge because of rejected or broken love, but again, this is not God’s way.
If you want to blow anyone’s mind about the teachings of Jesus go directly to today’s gospel where he says love your enemies etc.. Most would say, no, no thank you. You guys are crazy! But at the root of this radical message is love. And when we experience the love of God in the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of his son in a way that we find that pearl in the field we are never the same. And yes, his teachings will often present a challenge that makes us think, we just can’t do it. Well, we are right, we can’t. Not on our own. The good news is we are not on our own. We never were and we never will be.
Will I keep watching westerns and root for the good guy? Yup, but not as any type of spiritual training or lesson. My teacher is a Jewish carpenter, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth who began a ministry that turned the world upside down, in a good way. Happy trails!
Closing Prayer: Just and merciful Lord, we are grateful for your patience and mercy. We continue to fall victim to our own desires for justice that often ends up taking us farther away from you. May we accept your teachings along with all the grace you offer us so we may love as you do,
Action for the Day: We cannot love our enemy, those who hate us, curse or mistreat us unless we surrender all we have and who we are to the sacrificial love of Jesus. Pray for the grace needed to be a radical lover like Jesus. Love without expecting anything in return.
Dn. Paul is hosting a Jubilee Motorcycle Ride. If you or know someone please reach out to Dn. Paul.