Fr. Mike’s Homily for Tuesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
Theme: LOVE your enemies
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Tuesday June 15 2021
“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.”
The Gospel today is the last of the six examples that Jesus gave as illustrations of how the teaching of the Law can be elevated to a higher and more perfect level.
Today, Jesus mentions the saying, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. This, however, is not found as such in the Hebrew Bible. This is just the common understanding among the Jews regarding the provision in the Book of Leviticus: “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (19:18). It implies that they can take revenge against strangers and outsiders, but not against fellow Jews.
However, Jesus teaches something totally contrary to this norm: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” For the Jews, these words are unrealistic and absurd. But not for God. Jesus states the reason why He gave this advice: “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.”
Loving our enemies is, after all, not irrational but a clear a sign of being true children of our heavenly Father. This is precisely in response to the Lord’s injunction in the Gospel: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Christian life is a becoming , a work in progress. And it is never easy. It is a constant and lifelong struggle to grow in holiness. That is why Jesus is urging us strive for perfection, to go beyond our current status. Loving those who love us is very easy. So, we should do better than that. We are called to love even our enemies, following the example of the heavenly Father and of Jesus Himself on the cross. This is undoubtedly the most difficult Gospel teaching.
What does loving our enemies mean, then? The word for love that the gospel uses is ‘agape’. It is the highest form of love wherein a person decides to love even those who are not lovable and have no means of reciprocating. It is the love which God extends to every one of His creatures, irrespective of how they respond to Him: “He makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” This is the love that Jesus has shown to His detractors and persecutors.
The Lord is not asking us to love our enemies with affection, to be fond of them or to embrace them. That would be insane and may even do more harm than good. Rather, there are practical ways to love our enemies. First, let us not judge them rashly and condemn them right away. Instead, we give them at least the benefit of the doubt. Man is a rational being. He has his reasons for his every action and behavior. It would greatly help if we first try to understand where they are coming from, or try to find out their current situation that may explain why they are acting that way.
Second, forgive them. When we harbor grudges, resentments and evil thoughts against anybody, we lose. We unnecessarily burden ourselves with these negative feelings, and we suffer. Many people have psychosomatic ailments brought about by unforgiveness and gnawing hatred. Difficult as it is, forgiveness frees us from undue stress and helps us regain our peace and well-being. And lest we forget, as we pray in the Our Father, God’s forgiveness will be given only when we forgive our enemies. Ultimately, forgiveness benefits more the forgiver than the forgiven.
Third, pray for them. This is what the Lord did while hanging on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Who knows, by the power of prayer, they will reform their lives and attitudes, and become better persons. If not, as we pray for them, we ourselves will become better persons. It may not be possible to change another person, but it is within our power to change ourselves.
And finally, let us keep the door of reconciliation open to them. It is always a possibility that in the near future, we may become the best of friends. Abraham Lincoln said: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” We ought to follow an advice from a popular saying: “Don’t treat people as bad as they are. Treat them as good as you are.”
Let us, then, heed the words of Jesus to St. Faustina: ʺHave great love for those who cause you suffering. Do good to those who hate you. Be always merciful as I am merciful. Love everyone out of love for Me, even your greatest enemiesʺ.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches