Scripture: 1st Reading: 2Cor8,1-9; Resp. Psalm: Ps146,1-2,5-9; Gosp. Accl.: Jn13,34; Gospel: Mt5,43-48
The values of the gospel are diametrically opposed to the values of this world. The values of the gospel were laid down by the Lord and Master Himself. These are values that come from the heart of God. The values of the world originated from and are sustained by satan, the master of lies and deceit. That is why both values are opposed to each other the way light is to darkness!
The values of the gospel, because they come from the Lord, vigorously challenge us daily to rise above our lethargy. One very challenging value and truth of the gospel is the one that commands us to love the enemy and pray for those who persecute us. We know who an enemy is: one who has sworn to do us harm, oppose us; one who plans all sorts of negativities against us. An enemy is one who wants nothing good to come our way. In human terms, the concept of love does not apply to the enemy because the enemy swims in the ocean of hatred, the direct opposite of love!
Humanly speaking, the best thing to do to the enemy is to match his hatred with greater hatred in order to teach him some lesson that he has no monopoly over hateful feelings, thoughts and actions. That would be fine if we are pagan unbelievers and operate under that code of conduct. In fact, if we were under that moral code, hitting so hard one who slaps us that his head almost comes off would be regarded as a very little response. Any other response would be plain stupid.
That is the logic of the world and of those who are of the world. But a believer is in the world but not of the world. His life is governed by a different set of rules. The Master Himself in today's gospel gives a very challenging and yet liberating option. The Master raised the Mosaic law some notches far higher. The law is that we love our neighbour and hate our enemies. But the Truth Himself gave us a new law.
That new law is: "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be son's of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." The reason for this new law is that the believer is not like others; the believer is not like those who do the minimum; the believer is a witness; the believer is one who preaches the gospel with his life. Therein lies the big difference.
The believer is not to love only those who love him or greet only those who greet him. These are the minimum that unbelievers and sinners and tax collectors do. The second reason why a believer must live by this very stringent law is this: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." In other words, the believer even here on earth, must live as a true son or daughter of his/her heavenly Father. The believer must act, talk, behave like a true born child, not like a bastard!
The true believer must act like Christ Jesus the Master. The word of God today commended such examples of true worship and discipleship as exemplified in the lives of the believers in Macedonia. They gave out of their extreme poverty and even beyond their means. They provided for the relief of others. They showed that their love was genuine. They followed Jesus, who though rich, became poor for their sakes, so that by His poverty, they might become rich.
Our lives therefore are not our own. Having been redeemed by Christ, our lives belong to another: to Christ Jesus Himself. We are His property. That is why He challenges us daily to rise above our limitations to arrive at the blessed life and state of perfection He wills for us. Let us not be discouraged. Let us not be afraid. Let us not be deterred. Let us allow His word to console us. May our lives bear witness to Him.
Let us pray: God our Father, you sent your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to give us an example of what it means to live well. Look with pity on our weaknesses. Take away from our hearts the hatred of the enemy and replace it with love. Make us perfect as you are perfect. Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.