SEVENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR – Love your enemies
INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR
In today’s Gospel Christ says to us: ‘Love your enemies. We tend to take these words with a grain of salt, as if they were meant for the saints, not for us. But they are meant for us but they are meant for us. We all have some enemies. Let us think about how we treat them. [Pause]
Lord, you do not stop loving us when we sin against you and stray from you. Christ, have mercy
Lord, you do not stop loving us when we sin against you and stray from you. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, you love all without exception, the deserving and the undeserving alike. Lord, have mercy.
HEADINGS FOR READINGS
First Reading (Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18). Moses is ordered by God to tell the people they must me holy. What does this imply? It means they are not to hate any one or bear a grudge against anyone.
Second Reading (1Cor 3:16-23. Paul reminds the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit Dwells among them. They are the temple of God and, therefore, should be holy.
Gospel (Matthew 5: 38:48). This contains one of the most revolutionary things ever said. All revolutionaries have said that enemies must be destroyed. But Christ said: You must not destroy your enemies, you must love them.
As Christians the greatest gift we possess is the gift to love. On our use if the gift depends the success or Failure of our lives. There is one thing that can utterly destroy this gift, and that is hate. Life offers us many opportunities to hate.
In the days when people owned their own wells, there were two farmers called John and James. They were good friends until a dispute arose over a piece of land. Unable to settle the issue among themselves, they went court over it. It was a long battle, and nearly all their neighbours were drawn into it and forced to take sides. In the end the court decided in favour of John. John was elated whereas James was bitter. So what did the latter do? He put poison in John’s well, not a fatal dose, but enough to disclose the water and give it an obnoxious taste.
John was very angry. He consulted with those neighbours who had been on his side in the court case. But many of these had had their fill of litigation and refused to have anything to do with the affair. Some came to look at the well out of sheer curiosity. They could see some grey substance lying at the bottom of the well, and gazed at it with a kind of fascination. However, they went away without doing anything, only muttering terrible things about James.
Others, however, were not content merely to look. They got a long stick and stirred up the water so that they could see the effect for themselves. They gasped when they saw the color the water turned. Others still were not content even with that. Believe it or not, they had to dip their fingers into the water and taste it! Even though they were nauseated, it didn’t stop them from repeating the experiment. They seemed to get some strange thrill out of doing so. They sympathised with John and declared that James should be made to pay for what he had done. They suggested that John should be made to pay for what he had done. They suggested that John should retaliate by putting poison in his well- to teach him a lesson.
John lapped up the support he got. He was about to go by night and drop poison in James’ well when a stranger arrived at his house. On hearing the story he agreed that it was a pretty nasty situation, but he would not agree with retaliation. ‘What good will that do?’ he asked. ‘Poison is not a thing to play around with. If you begin to dabble in it, it will enter your whole system, and you’ll be the one who will suffer most in the end. I have a better idea. I’ll show you in the morning.’
His idea was to clean out the well. He offered to help. It was with a great deal of reluctance and a feeling of defeat that John finally agreed. If would take a lot of time. They would have to do without water in the mean time, for the first thing they had to do was to cut off the supply. And it was a messy business, cleaning out all that mud, dirt, and silt. It took them two whole days. Then they ran the fresh water through the well several times until they were quite sure that all the poison was gone. The stranger finally took a cup of the water, drank it, and declared that it was okay.
John did likewise but was not convinced. He maintained that he could still taste the poison. To which the stranger replied: ‘Take it from me. The water is perfect. But you will continue to taste the poison until you do one more thing.’ And what is that?’ asked John earnestly. ‘You must forgive your neighbour. You have got rid of the poison from the well, but it is still in your mind and heart. Not until you let go of your bitterness, and forgive your brother, will the water taste right.’
That same evening John went over to his neighbour and made peace with him. Immediately the water tasted good. And they become friends once more.
Hate is very dangerous thing and can destroy us. We consume more energy in hating than in all other activities. Hatred creates a legacy of poison- the poison of bitterness, hostility, and resentment. It’s amazing the poison and nastiness that exist in so called ‘nice’ people! Just get them stirred up and you’ll see. When we hate another person we give that person terrible power over us. The person we hate has the power to rob is of our peace of mind and capacity to love.
Hate never helps a situation. It merely tends to spread the poison yet it goes on all the time. If afflicts us all, If only in small ways. Think of the petty spites and rows we get drawn into. And it goes on too on a wider scale in industry, politics, and even sometimes in the Church.
Christ’s way is a better way. It is not a soft way. It calls for strength and toughness. Chesterton said: Christianity has not been tried and found wanting: it has been found hard and left untried’. More than any other, the exhortation to love one’s enemies has been left untried.
Perhaps we could give it a try, if only towards one person who may have poisoned our lives in some way. We ourselves will be the greatest beneficiaries. In disputes that do not involve us directly, we should be trying to reconcile the parties, not trying to stir things up, thus spreading the poison.
‘We help ourselves to rise by helping our enemy to rise’, (Thomas Merton).
‘The reason we fear and hate one another is that we secretly fear and hate our own selves’. (Thomas Merton)
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
Let us pray that God may help us to cleanse our hearts of the poison of hatred, bitterness, and resentment, a poison which robs us of our peace and destroys our capacity to love. R. Lord, graciously hear us.
That Christians may strive, in a spirit of love and understanding, to overcome the things that divide them. [Pause] Lord, hear us.
For all government leaders: that they may take the path of peace and reconciliation rather than the path of war and retaliation. [Pause] Lord, hear us.
For the people we do not like: for those we reject, and with whom we will have nothing to do. [Pause] Lord, hear us.
That we may be able to banish from our hearts all hatred and resentment so that we may become people who can love others, even our enemies. [Pause] Lord, hear us.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, you commanded us to love our enemies, and you gave us an example by praying for those who put you to death. Help us to grow in love. We ask this through you, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
SIGN OF PEACE
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your disciples:’ Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you. In this way you will show that you are true children of your Father in heaven’. Lord, help us to be merciful and forgiving towards those who make life difficult for us, and thus we will enjoy the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live forever and ever.
When Abraham Lincoln was running for president
he had an arch- enemy called Stanton.
Stanton never lost a chance to attack him.
Yet when Lincoln won the election
he surprised his friends
by giving Stanton a post in his cabinet.
He defended his action by saying:
‘He is the best man for the job’.
And he was proved right.
Stanton gave him loyal service.
When Lincoln was assassinated
Stanton paid him this tribute.
‘Lincoln was one of the greatest men who ever lived’.
Once when someone asked Lincoln
why he didn’t destroy his enemies, he said:
‘ Do I not destroy my enemies
when I make them my Friends?’