With the opening words of today’s Gospel of John: Jesus said to his disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first”, Jesus is not proposing an us verses them mentality. It can be easily taken that way, and certainly has been lived out in many ways in our society and world. An us verses them mentality is usually a defensive posture assumed by those who feel or are actuality being persecuted. It is an understandable posture. It is just not the stance that Jesus proposes us to take. We are to love our enemies, we are to love those who hate us.
Jesus is just making it plain to his disciples that they need to be prepared, that what is coming is the same that has been happening to him. They will be persecuted, mocked, imprisoned, and give their lives just as Jesus did. The gospel message is a challenge. We are challenged to have a change of mind and heart, to be more conformed to the love of Jesus the Christ. This means that our focus must shift from our self as first and foremost to God who is to have the primary sense of place in our lives.
We know we are putting God first instead of our fallen nature when we react less. Reactions are based in an us vs. them mentality. They and them are responsible for the state I am in, they are taking my jobs, they are not allowing me to worship or speak in the way I want to, it is all their fault, they made me do it, are all reactive thoughts that lead to uglier statements and actions. Jesus invites us to assume the disposition of mindful action not reaction.
The way we can be more mindful and less reactive is to be people of prayer and meditation. Much of our reaction comes from our harried pace, keeping us from being in touch with our deep seeded fears and prejudices. We run from the mirror Jesus holds up to us. We need to stop and pray regularly. See the sin in our heart so we can admit it and let it go. We begin by taking some deep breaths, asking Jesus to be present in our lives, asking him to shine the light of his love so to see what we have hidden, so we can bring the hate to the surface, let is go, be forgiven, and be set free.
We can then be in a better place to ask for the healing to continue, for Jesus to help us to be more patient, understanding, truer to who he calls us to be, which is people of love, willing the other’s good, accepting and encountering each other as fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus on our journey together, recognizing that the common denominator for each of us is that we are wounded, lonely, and just want to belong.
Many children in our area are receiving their First Holy Communion today. A wonderful gift we can give them is slowing down a bit this Saturday to rest and renew in God’s love, turn to his Son for support and guidance and embrace the love of the Holy Spirit, so to tear down walls of hate and separation, and instead build bridges of love and mindfulness. In this way, when we experience hate, dehumanization, and defamation, indirectly through multiple media platforms and directly in our own life, let us greet each with a breath, and a turning again and again to Jesus for assistance so we may resist the easy and impulsive reaction, and instead respond with mindful thoughts, words, and actions. We are to hold people accountable, not with hate though but with love. Living love with courage in a world filled with hate is a better model to provide for our youth.
I will leave you today with a quote from someone who understood from direct experience how Jesus wanted us to respond to hate:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive our hate; only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Photo source: http://multiculturalministriescentral.org/monday-january-19-national-observance-martin-luther-king-jr-day-will-celebrate-holiday/
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, May 5, 2018: