Daily Gospel Reflection – June 20th, 2023

The Gospel according to Matthew (5:43-48) 

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”


It is safe to say that these words from the Sermon on the Mount were especially hard for His listeners to understand.  They really don’t make much more sense to us even two thousand years later!  In this grand sermon of Jesus, He is laying out what it means to truly be His follower, and to truly follow the great commandments.  The main thing that I am amazed about is that most of His followers did not leave right at this point!  Many stuck around until He gave his discourse on the Bread of Life.

It comes down to two words in this reading: “love” and “enemies”.  What did Jesus mean by those two words?  And, how can we relate to that today?

Scripture scholars tell us that in the Greek language, there’s not just one word for “love”.  There are actually three distinct ones that are known to us:  “love” meaning “friendship”; “love” meaning erotic, romantic love; and “love” meaning “self-sacrificing love”.  Which of those applies here, do you think?  It’s the last of the three that is significant here.  Jesus is not saying to become friends with those who oppose you.  He’s not saying that you are to fall in love with them, either.  What He is saying is that we are to act out of that “self-sacrificing love” for them.  In Greek, that’s “agape”.  It’s love that desires the well-being of the other.

Jesus is basically saying that we are to care for that other person, even if they oppose us in some way, and we do it because that person has the same dignity that any son or daughter of God has.  For us human beings, it’s very hard indeed to see past the offense someone has caused us.  I’ve written in some of these reflections about my dad. He was often very opinionated and stubborn, and if someone did something he didn’t like, he was not shy about saying so.  But, when it came down to it, if someone who had “done him wrong” came to him in need, my dad would still do what he could to help.  He’d grumble about it, sure, but he acted in that way, even though his personality was not one of great warmth when he was upset.

That’s “love”.  What about who Jesus meant by “enemies”?  One way of looking at it is that an “enemy” was one who did not abide by what we now know as the “Golden Rule”: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  In short, treat others with the same respect and consideration that you would like to receive.  Does any of us think that our world would not be better in so many ways if everyone followed that rule?  Sadly, it seems that relatively few seem to do so.  I think Jesus knew that there were those sorts of folks in His own earthly time, and there are definitely many of them here now.  But, notice what Jesus tells His disciples to do to those who don’t repay kindness and consideration – He tells them to love those individuals.  We are called to do no less today.  Even if we do it like my dad did — where he complained about the person, even as he showed kindness and mercy to them – we still act in a way that deflates the conflict and (maybe, please, God) causes the one who wronged us to see that there’s a better way.

Maybe we can start that goal of loving our enemies by starting with very small things, like not yelling at the person who cut us off on the road, or who cut in line in front of us at the supermarket.  Maybe even taking that small step helps there to be more peace in the world (and certainly, more peace in our hearts).  What better thing can any of us do today or any day?

Action for the Day:

Be mindful of your actions today and try to catch yourself if you respond negatively to someone who slights you or causes you pain.  If you are able to turn that into a moment of grace and peace, give thanks to God for it!  And, if you’re like me and you don’t quite get there, don’t despair – just ask God to help you to be more open and to do better the next time!

If you would like to hear this reflection, click the link below! 

One thought on “Daily Gospel Reflection – June 20th, 2023

  1. I forgot to send this to you but I too struggle with forgiveness to people especially those who are close to me. I hurts my heart and soul. I say in my head I forgive you but my heart can’t forget
    I do ask God for help it’s one of the crosses that I carry
    God Bless you

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