Gospel Reflections

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time   (Sunday 17th February 2019)

 To read the Gospel of the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, please click here

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate ~ (Lk 6.27-38)

The French philosopher, mathematician & scientist René Descartes wrote that: “man is between God and nothingness and he must chose”. Unlike everything else in this world, God’s kingdom is indestructible and eternal.

Jesus came to transform, renew and change us. God came to us as a man, so that we may become truly human. God brought man into being from non~being. God offers us the fullness of beatitudinal being. All we have to do is live in communion with him.

Our gospel today tells us “love your enemies”. Some people are a real pleasure to get know, while others are a real privilege to get to know. You and me enjoy the privilege of individually and collectively sharing a loving relationship with Christ our king. Our entrance into God’s presence, into the Promised Land ~ is our goal and we must not let anyone or anything get in the way of our pilgrim journey to the Kingdom.

In today’s Gospel we have the second part of the “discourse on the plain.” In the first part (Lk 6:20-26), Jesus addressed Himself to the disciples (Lk 6:20). In the second part (Lk 6: 27-49), Jesus addressed Himself “to you who are listening”.

Luke 6:27-30: “Love your enemies!” Jesus’ words are difficult and demanding: to love your enemies, not to curse them, to present the other cheek to anyone who slaps you on one cheek, and do not protest or complain when somebody takes what is yours. When the soldier struck Jesus on the face, Jesus did not offer the other cheek but outlined an injustice: “If there is some offense in what I said, point it out, but if not why do you strike Me?” (Jn 18: 22-23).

Luke 6:31-36: The Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would like people to treat you!” (Lk 6:31) is best understood when it is twinned with its proper application, in other words, “Be merciful as your Father in Heaven is merciful!” (Lk 6:36). Jesus through these two directives demand that we realign our lives within Him.

For example, take the statement: “Love your enemies!” True love, as St Thomas Aquinas OP says, is: “to will the good of the other”. We will always be below the measure which Jesus has placed before us, but that doesn’t mean that we should not strive to be holy and to be growing towards perfection! We need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the prize ~ on being a joyful, concrete and authentic witness to God’s kingdom.

In Luke’s Gospel, the Golden Rule says, “Treat others as you would like people to treat you!” (Lk 6:31). Matthew, in his Gospel, gives a different formulation: “Treat others as you would like others to treat you.” Matthew adds, “That is the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7:12). Worldwide, most religions have adopted the Golden Rule in some way. This evidences the universality, accessibility and relevance of God’s teaching.

In the Christian life, it is never how you start, it is always how you finish. God through the Sacrament of Confession, constantly offers us a fresh start. May we use confession to help us to be better lovers of our enemies, our frenemies and of problematic people! For it is when we love these people who grind our gears that we love God as per Mt 25:40: “what you did to the least of these brethren, you did unto me”.

Luke 6:37-38: “Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and there will be gifts for you; a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.” These are four counsels: two in a negative form, do not judge and do not condemn; and two in positive form: to forgive and to give an abundant measure.

When Jesus says, “there will be gifts for you,” Jesus refers to the treatment which God wants to bestow on us. Interestingly, John recounts in Revelation 22:12 that Jesus said: “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work”. There is no limit to God’s grace. We must be God focused and do our work faithfully as good disciples. Luke in 9:62 tells us that: “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”. This expressed our urgency to be faithful.

Jesus’ Discourse on the Plain, from the beginning, leads us to make a choice, to be with God or not. In the Old Testament, several times, God placed before people this same choice, blessing or curse. People were given the freedom to choose: “Today I call heaven and earth to witness against you: I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live” (Deut 30:19). Jesus constantly demands of us be open to always protecting life ~ no matter the cost involved. For us, we should always be attentive to the eternal implications of our decisions. Thereby we will protect our souls from the evil one and rise above our concupiscent inclinations.

Luke is the only Evangelist who uses this image of the visit of God (Lk 1:68, 78; 7:16; 19:44; Acts 15:16). These are good passages for lectio divina by the way!

For Luke it is the visit of God which places the choice between blessing or curse before people: “Blessed are you who are poor” and “Alas for you, the rich!” But people do not recognize the visit of God (Lk 19:44).

Over the weeks ahead, let us pray that we will be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful, Let us look for opportunities to share God’s vision with others.

Let us all keep our souls, bodies and energy on the one thing that matters ~ on knowing, loving and serving God. Let us keep our eyes firmly on the prize and help get one another to heaven.

During our lives, God uses events and people to remind us of our beauty, of our sacredness and of our call to be a witness to God’s kingdom. God’s love for us will always be greater than a spousal love. God’s kingdom is heaven itself which is a state of being, and not a place. God writes straight with crooked lines, and for those times when we take missteps, when we make mistakes and when we mistreat others or fail to fulfil our duties, we find within our hearts and conscience a prompting to make amends and to return to glorying God with our lives. May we use the Sacrament of Confession, our Eucharistic adoration to help us to embody more the charity that the Eucharist places within our hearts when we receive the Body of Christ.

O God, may we not be seduced by the pleasures of this world. May we always share the privilege of loving you. May we always glorify you and prepare ourselves to enter into the fullness of your kingdom, Amen.

St Augustine tells us that: “Our hearts will not rest until they rest with God.” I invite you to close your eyes and to think back: When did last rest with God? When did you last reflect upon your readiness to enter into God’s heavenly kingdom?

Let us spend a minute in silence completing God’s kingdom. Let us find creative ways to remind people of God’s kingdom. Let us use high end art, especially images and artwork of Catholic beauty to inspire us and to spur us on to be more holy. Let us be tremendous and better lovers of God, of His Salvific Word, of His beautiful people, Amen.

Fr Fergal Cummins

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