Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time - Cycle C
1st Reading: 1 Samuel 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103: 1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 45-49
Gospel: Luke 6: 27-38
If you are as easily distracted as I am, now is a good time to remind you that today’s gospel is a continuation of the Sermon on the Plain we began last week. Luke’s sermon is only ¼ as long as Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount; 27 verses compared to 129. However, we find in the few verses of Luke's sermon an agenda for transforming the world. Remember, this audience had just been presented with the Beatitudes. This sermon was directed to both the haves and the have nots. At the beginning of the address, Jesus explains the change in the world order. In this part, He speaks of interior change for each disciple. Participating in the Paschal Mystery demands a response. In this gospel, Jesus tells you exactly what that response is to be.
There are 3 basic forms of reciprocity:
General Reciprocity – sharing without hope of return (family)
Balanced Reciprocity – loving those who love us first (friends)
Negative Reciprocity – taking advantage of strangers, something for nothing (strangers)
The later form of negative reciprocity is why it was so critical for the concept of hospitality in the ancient world. It was a matter of personal safety. True hospitality was reserved for strangers with full general reciprocity, expecting nothing in return. Being reciprocated was an insult. In this gospel, Jesus calls us all to General Reciprocity for all, even the strangers among us, all the time. Jesus also challenges stereotyping which was very common during His time here. Think back to these passages:
“All natives of Crete are liars, vicious brutes and lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12)
“Judeans do not share things in common with Samaritans.” (John 4:9)
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 4:9)
These labels played an important role. They would control and restrict social interaction. Think back to scripture and the titles used; i.e., sinner, tax collector, a woman of the city, carpenter’s son. When we understand this, Jesus' request seems absurd.
“Love your enemies?” I want to think that I don't have any enemies. Sure, there are people that I don’t like or don't want to hang around. There are even some from which I've severed relationships. However, certainly, they’re not my enemies. Right? But then again, when I think about it, I do know that inner voice that whispers: “Don’t let him get away with that.” “I hope he gets nailed.” “I hope he gets what’s coming to him.”
I do know the satisfaction of keeping score and getting even. I am not declaring war; it’s more like occasional skirmishes. But even these skirmishes can sting, cause harm and provoke vengeance. Moreover, equally as bad is what such moments do to us on the inside, how they transform us. Dislike can harden and fester within, resulting in an ongoing habit of striking out. It releases a poison into our system, settling into our hearts and changing it. A heart can become cold and hard over the years, shriveled in its capacity to love. So that cannot be the heart of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
We are called to go beyond what is socially expected; to offer the same gratuitous love that God offers all of humanity. Our actions always bring reactions. We are warned about judging and condemning because God can do the same to us. The consequence is equal to the same. But the result for generosity is above and beyond the action performed. It is not equivalent and is far more beneficial to the giver than the receiver. In the Old Testament, understanding of God’s punishment might reach into the 3rd or 4th generation of your family, but God’s love would last even through the 1000th generation.
Love is a decision, a choice. Love is not some sloppy, sentimental emotion. We’re not talking about feelings, but the use of our own free will. The Greeks distinguished between 3 different kinds of love:
Eros – natural love between a man and a woman; an erotic love.
Philo – love for a relative or friend; a brotherly love.
Agape- love that builds and develops, love without expectation for any response, it cannot be contained, and must be expressed and demonstrated through behavior
Agape love was Jesus’ example. He asks us to do nothing He hasn’t done Himself. He even grants us the ability, through the Holy Spirit. He knew there were and would always be sin and sinners in the world. He understood what it felt like to be hated, persecuted and even put to death. And still, Jesus loved them all.
This gospel comes down to two basic points: A) Love your enemies and B) Be generous in your response to everyone. The extent that we do for others is the measure which will be used when we are judged. It will either be our indictment, or our reward.
What motives does Jesus encourage for acting in the manner He recommends? Do these motives seem enough to you? Why or why not?
Under what circumstances would you lend to those who might not repay you? Would you lend money to anyone who asked you? Do you think Jesus is asking you to? Why or why not?
If there is no difference between how Christians behave and non-Christians behave, where’s the evidence that Christianity is different?