As Christians, we are called by Jesus to live lives of holiness, with the end goal of being saints. Saints are those who are about one thing. They know what God requires of them and they do it. Each on of us are invited to live lives of sanctity as well, no matter our age or our vocation. What we need to realize is that we cannot attain holiness on our own. For apart from Jesus we can do nothing, yet in participation with Jesus all things are possible. We also need to understand that Jesus is not “just an idea but a person” (Barron 6, 2016).
We receive a demanding challenge from this person in our Gospel reading from Luke today in an excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain. This provides a nice opportunity for us to assess how we are doing in living our life as a Christian.
Let’s look at the first two. How many of us this week have been regularly loving our enemies or doing good to those who hate us? Let’s look at these two points a little more concretely, how did you react the last time you were cut off in traffic? Did you bless them with the sign of the cross or offer another gesture? What was your internal reaction the last time you perceived that someone was rude or impatient with you? Were you rude and impatient in return, did you stew within, or were you understanding and patient?
How many people have you blessed this week that have cursed you and how many people did you pray for that mistreated you? I could go on, but I encourage you to read the entire account prayerfully and reflectively. Resist the temptation to slip into rationalizations and defensiveness or to throw your Bible or computer across the room.
Jesus is helping us to understand the kind of love he calls us to engage in. This love is not about emotion, mere sentiment, or about feeling good about ourselves because we have done something nice for someone else. This love is not about giving to get something in return. This love that Jesus is imploring us to live in and share, is about willing the good of other as other and realizing that apart from placing ourselves in a position of receiving and experiencing the unconditional and merciful love of Jesus, we are not capable of loving others.
Jesus also shares that we are to: “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” We do not do forgiveness well. Thus, we do not experience forgiveness, and so remain stuck in a this growing cycle of unforgiveness, bitterness, division, polarization, separation, and isolation. If we instead put more effort into consciously practicing forgiveness and asking Jesus to forgive us, for what we have done and have failed to do, I am convinced that we will experience his love and mercy and be better agents of healing and reconciliation.
Lent is almost upon us. Lent is a good time to participate in the healing power of the sacrament of Reconciliation. By doing so we experience the love of being forgiven. Once we experience God’s tender love and forgiveness, we will be able to begin to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse and mistreat us. We will begin to offer the other cheek to the one who strikes us, do to others what we would have them do to us, and be merciful because we have received the mercy of our Father in heaven.
Jesus calls us for a purpose, to be holy and set apart, to live as saints, to live as Jesus calls us to live in his Sermon on the plain, which is to be about one thing, opening our hearts and minds, applying our faith and reason, as we receive the love of Holy Spirit so as to love God, ourselves and our neighbors as ourselves.
Photo: from an evening walk two nights ago.
Quote from Francis Cardinal George from the forward to: Barron, Robert. The Priority of Christ: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016.