Fr. Mike’s Homily for Thursday of 23rd Week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
Theme: Love your enemies
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
Homily for Thursday September 9 2021
“But 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.”
Many of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels are paradoxical and counter cultural. We saw this in the Beatitudes. The Gospel today is even more difficult to comprehend. How can we love our enemies? It definitely runs against our natural human experience and values. Some may even consider this ridiculous and absurd.
But Jesus did not only teach it; He practiced and lived it as well. Even while dying on the cross, He prayed for the forgiveness and salvation of His persecutors: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”(Lk 23:34).
According to St. Teresa of Kolkata, “Love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.”
The true definition of love is “total self-giving”. Hence, it hurts because it entails sacrifice and self- denial. Yet this is the most fundamental requirement in following Jesus: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). Self-denial is the first step in order to practice love, and that is why He talks about taking up one’s cross.
Certainly, this is the core teaching of Jesus. Loving is not about getting, but giving. It is about doing good to the other. That is why Jesus reverses the formula for the ‘Golden Rule’. Up until that time, people understand the ‘Golden Rule’ in the negative sense: “Do not do to others what you would not want them do to you.” This means that being a good person consists mainly in avoiding evil. But the fact is, a person who is concerned only with avoiding evil is actually doing nothing. And so he cannot be considered good at all.
Jesus points out the true meaning of the ‘Golden Rule’ by emphasizing its positive sense: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Doing something good is what makes a person good. Doing nothing is ‘sin of omission’. This is the basis for condemnation on the last judgment: “I was hungry and you did not give me food, thirsty and you did not give me drink…”
Furthermore, doing good to others should be unconditional and non-discriminating. Such is God’s love: “He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:45). It is, therefore, a one-sided love in the sense that it expects no return or recompense: “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?”
In the Gospel, the Greek word used by Jesus for ‘love’ is ‘agape’. It refers to love that is not solely dependent on feelings, attraction or particular liking, nor is it confined only to loved ones or friends. Rather, it is about one’s commitment to do something good for the well-being of another person, regardless of his status or condition in life. Simply put, ‘agape’ is to love the way God loves us. St. Paul expresses it beautifully: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
St. Paul says, “while we were still sinners.” Our sinfulness is going on, yet God has never stopped loving us. This reminds us of the loving and forgiving father of the Prodigal Son. True love never gives up. This is the kind of love that married spouses should have. Continuing to love each other despite all marital problems and human weaknesses is what true love is all about.
When we consider the points mentioned – that love is self-giving, it does not discriminate, it seeks the good of others, and it does not give up – then, we can see that the teaching on love of enemies is not only possible and reasonable, but should, in fact, be our way of life as Christians. To follow Jesus simply means to love the way He loves us.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches