Books of the Bible Index of Homilies
Matthew Mark Luke John The Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter 1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Tobit Judith Esther 1 Maccabees 2 Maccabees Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes The Song of Songs The Book of Wisdom Sirach Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
This is no easy matter, and in general, we think that Jesus is asking too much of us. We think: ‘Let's leave this to the cloistered sisters who are holy, a few holy souls!’. But this is not the right attitude. Jesus says that you must do this, otherwise you are like the Publicans, like the pagans, and you are not Christians. In fact, how can we love those who decide to bomb and kill so many people? How can we love who for love of money do not allow medicines to get to those who are in need, to the elderly and let them die?. And once again: How can we love people who seek only their interests and power and do so much evil?.
This is the mystery of salvation: with forgiveness, with love for our enemy, we become poorer. But this poverty is a seed bearing fruit for others, as Jesus' poverty became grace for us all, salvation.
Jesus gave us the law of love: to love God and to love one another as brothers. And the Lord did not fail to explain it a bit further, with the Beatitudes which nicely summarize the Christian approach.
In the day’s Gospel passage, however, Jesus goes a step further, explaining in greater detail to those who surrounded Him to hear Him. Let us look first of all at the verbs Jesus uses: love; do good; bless; pray; offer; do not refuse; give. With these words, Jesus shows us the path that we must take, a path of generosity. He asks us first and foremost to love. And we ask, “whom must I love?”. He answers us, “your enemies”. And, with surprise, we ask for confirmation: “our actual enemies?”. “Yes”, the Lord tells us, "actually your enemies!"
But the Lord also asks us to do good. And if we do not ask him, to whom? He tells us straight away, “to those who hate us”. And this time too, we ask the Lord for confirmation: “But must I do good to those who hate me?”. And the Lord’s reply is again, “yes”.
Then he even asks us to bless those who curse us. And to pray not only for my mama, for my dad, my children, my family, but for those who abuse us. And not to refuse anyone who begs from you. The newness of the Gospel lies in the giving of oneself, giving the heart, to those who actually dislike us, who harm us, to our enemies. The passage from Luke reads: “And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?”. It would merely be an exchange: you love me, I love you. But Jesus reminds us that even sinners — and by sinners he means pagans — love those who love them. This is why, there is no credit.
The passage continues: “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same”. Again, it is simply an exchange: I do good to you, you do good to me!. And yet the Gospel adds: “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you?”. No credit, because it’s a bargain. St Luke then indicates, “even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again”.
All of Jesus’ reasoning leads to a firm conclusion: “Love your enemies instead. Do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Without interest. And your reward will be great”. And thus you will be sons of the Most High.
It is therefore evident that the Gospel is a new message that is difficult to carry forward. In a word, it means “go behind Jesus”. Follow him. Imitate him. Jesus does not answer his Father by saying, “I shall go and say a few words, I shall make a nice speech, I shall point the way and then come back”. No, Jesus’ response to the Father is: “I shall do your will”. And indeed, in the Garden of Olives he says to the Father: “Thy will be done”. And thus he gives his life, not for his friends but for his enemies!
The Christian way is not easy, but this is it. Therefore, to those who say, “I don’t feel like doing this”, the response is “if you don’t feel like it, that’s your problem, but this is the Christian way. This is the path that Jesus teaches us. This is the reason to take the path of Jesus, which is mercy: be merciful as your Father is merciful. Because only with a merciful heart can we do all that the Lord advises us, until the end. And thus it is obvious that the Christian life is not a self-reflexive life but it comes outside of itself to give to others: it is a gift, it is love, and love does not turn back on itself, it is not selfish: it gives itself!
The passage of St Luke concludes with the invitation not to judge and to be merciful. However, it often seems that we have been appointed judges of others: gossiping, criticizing, we judge everyone. But Jesus tells us: “Judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”. And so, we say it every day in the Our Father: forgive us as we forgive. In fact if I do not first forgive, how can I ask the Father to forgive me?
There is also another really beautiful image in the Gospel reading: “Give and it will be given to you”. And here “Jesus’ heart can be seen to grow and he makes this promise which is perhaps an image of heaven. The Christian life as Jesus presents it truly seems to be “folly”. St Paul himself speaks of the folly the cross of Christ, which is not part of the wisdom of the world. For this reason to be a Christian is to become a bit foolish, in a certain sense. And to renounce that worldly shrewdness in order to do all that Jesus tells us to do. And, if we make an accounting, if we balance things out, it seems to weigh against us. But the path of Jesus is magnanimity, generosity, the giving of oneself without measure. He came into the world to save and he gave himself, he forgave, he spoke ill of no one, he did not judge.
Of course, being Christian isn’t easy and we cannot become Christian with our own strength; we need “the grace of God”. Therefore, there is a prayer which should be said every day: “Lord, grant me the grace to become a good Christian, because I cannot do it alone."
A first reading of Chapter Six of Luke’s Gospel is unnerving. But, if we take the Gospel and we give it a second, a third, a fourth reading, we can then ask the Lord for the grace to understand what it is to be Christian. And also for the grace that He make Christians of us. Because we cannot do it alone.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 5:38-48) — one of the passages that best illustrates Christian “revolution” — Jesus shows us the way of true justice through the law of love which is greater than the law of retaliation, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. This ancient law imposed the infliction on wrongdoers of a punishment equivalent to the damage they caused: death for those who killed, amputation for those who injured, and so on. Jesus does not ask his disciples to abide evil, but asks them to react; however, not with another evil action, but with good. This is the only way to break the chain of evil: one evil leads to another which leads to another evil.... This chain of evil is broken and things truly begin to change. Evil is, in fact, a “void”, a void of good. It is not possible to fill a void, except with “fullness”, that is, good. Revenge never leads to conflict resolution. “You did this to me, I will do it back to you”: this never resolves conflict, nor is it even Christian.
According to Jesus, the rejection of violence can also involve the sacrifice of a legitimate right. He gives a few examples of this: turn the other cheek, give up your coat or money, accept other sacrifices (v. 39-42). But such sacrifice does not mean that the demands of justice should be ignored or contradicted. No, on the contrary, Christian love, which manifests itself in a special way in mercy, is an achievement superior to justice. What Jesus wants to teach us is the clear distinction that we must make between justice and revenge. Distinguishing between justice and revenge. Revenge is never just. We are permitted to ask for justice. It is our duty to exercise justice. We are, however, not permitted to avenge ourselves or, in any way foment revenge, as it is an expression of hatred and violence.
Jesus does not wish to propose a new system of civil law, but rather the commandment to love thy neighbour, which also includes loving enemies: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. (v. 44) And this is not easy. These words should not be seen as an approval of evil carried out by an enemy, but as an invitation to a loftier perspective, a magnanimous perspective, similar to that of the Heavenly Father, who, Jesus says, “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”. (v. 45). An enemy, in fact, is also a human being, created as such in God’s image, despite the fact that in the present, that image may be tarnished by shameful behaviour.
When we speak of “enemies”, we should not think about people who are different or far removed from us; let us also talk about ourselves, as we may come into conflict with our neighbour, at times with our relatives. How many hostilities exist within families — how many! Let us think about this. Enemies are also those who speak ill of us, who defame us and do us harm. It is not easy to digest this. We are called to respond to each of them with good, which also has strategies inspired by love.
May the Virgin Mary help us follow Jesus on this demanding path, which truly exalts human dignity and lets us live as children of our Father who art in Heaven. May she help us exercise patience, dialogue, forgiveness, and to be artisans of communion, artisans of fraternity in our daily life, and above all in our families.
The mystery of Christian life is loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. Forgiveness, prayer, and love for those who seek to destroy us is the path Jesus has laid out for us. The challenge of Christian life is asking the Lord for the grace to bless our enemies and to love them..
To pray for those who want to destroy me, my enemies, so that God may bless them: This is truly difficult to understand. We can recall events of the last century, like the poor Russian Christians who, simply for being Christians, were sent to Siberia to die of cold. And they should pray for the executing government that sent them there? How can that be? Yet many did so: they prayed. We think of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Should they pray for the dictator who sought a ‘pure race’ and killed without scruple, even to pray that God should bless him? And yet many did so.”
Jesus’ “difficult logic” is contained in his prayer for those who put him to death on the Cross. Jesus asks God to forgive them.
There is an infinite distance between us – we who frequently refuse to forgive even small things – and what the Lord asks of us, which he has exemplified for us: To forgive those who seek to destroy us. It is often very difficult within families, for example, when spouses need to forgive one another after an argument, or when one needs to forgive their mother-in-law. It’s not easy… Rather, [we are invited] to forgive those who are killing us, who want us out of the way… Not only forgive, but even pray that God may watch over them! Even more, to love them. Only Jesus’ word can explain this.
It is a grace “to understand this Christian mystery and be perfect like the Father, who gives good things to the good and the bad. It would do us well, today, to think of our enemy – I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. The Mafia’s prayer is: ‘You’ll pay me back.’ The Christian prayer is: ‘Lord, give them your blessing, and teach me to love them.’ Let us think of one enemy, and pray for them. May the Lord to give us the grace to love them.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel passage (cf. Lk 6:27-38) concerns a central point that characterizes Christian life: love for enemies. Jesus’ words are clear: “I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (vv. 27-38). And this is not optional, it is a command. It is not for everyone, but for the disciples, whom Jesus calls “you that hear”. He is well aware that loving enemies exceeds our possibilities, but this is why he became man: not to leave us as we are, but to transform us into men and women capable of a greater love, that of his Father and ours. This is the love that Jesus gives to those who ‘hear him’. Thus it becomes possible! With him, thanks to his love, to his Spirit, we are able to love even those who do not love us, even those who do us harm.
In this way, Jesus wants God’s love to triumph over hatred and rancour in every heart. The logic of love, which culminates in Christ’s Cross, is a Christian’s badge and induces us to meet everyone with the heart of brothers and sisters. But how is it possible to overcome human instinct and the worldly law of retaliation? Jesus provides the answer in the same Gospel passage: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (v. 36). Those who hear Jesus, who make an effort to follow him even at a cost, become children of God, and begin to truly resemble the Father who is in heaven. We become capable of things we never thought we could say or do, and of which we would have been rather ashamed, but which now give us joy and peace instead. We no longer need to be violent, with words and gestures: we discover that we are capable of tenderness and goodness; and we sense that all of this comes not from ourselves but from him! And thus we do not brag about it but are grateful for it.
There is nothing greater and more fruitful than love: it bestows all dignity to the person, while, on the contrary, hatred and vengeance decrease it, marring the beauty of the creature made in God’s image.
This command, to respond to insult and wrongdoing with love, has created a new culture in the world: “a culture of mercy” — we need to learn this well! And properly practice this culture of mercy — which “can set in motion a real cultural revolution” (Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, 20). It is the revolution of love, in which the protagonists are the martyrs of all times. And Jesus assures us that our behaviour, inspired by love for those who do us harm, will not be in vain. He tells us: “forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (vv. 37-38). This is beautiful. God will give us something beautiful if we are generous, merciful. We must forgive because God has forgiven us and always forgives us. If we do not forgive completely, we cannot expect to be forgiven completely. However, if our hearts are open to mercy, if we seal forgiveness with a brotherly embrace and secure the bonds of communion, we proclaim to the world that it is possible to overcome evil with good. At times it is easier for us to remember the harm they have done to us and not the good things; to the point that there are people who have this habit and it becomes a sickness. They are “collectors of injustice”: they only remember the bad things done. And this is not a path. We must do the opposite, Jesus says. Remember the good things, and when someone comes with some gossip, and speaks ill of another, say: “Yes, perhaps ... but he has this good quality...”. Turn the discussion around. This is the revolution of mercy.
May the Virgin Mary help us to let our heart be touched by this holy word of Jesus, burning like fire, that it may transform us and make us able to do good without reciprocation, doing good without reciprocation, witnessing everywhere to the victory of love.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today's Gospel takes us to the upper room for us hear some the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples in His "Farewell Address" before his passion. After washing the feet of the Twelve, He tells them: "I give you a new commandment: "Love one another, you must love one another just as I have loved you", (Jn 13.34). But in what sense is Jesus calling this commandment new? Because we know that already in the Old Testament God had commanded his people to love their neighbour as they loved themselves (cf. Lev 19.18). Jesus himself, when asked about the greatest commandment of the law, replied that the first is to love God with all their heart and the second to love one's neighbour as oneself (cf. Mt -39 22.38).
So what is the novelty of this commandment that Jesus entrusts to his disciples? Why call it a new commandment ? The old commandment of love has became new because it has been completed with this addition: "as I have loved you", "love one another as I have loved you." The novelty lies in the love of Jesus Christ, the love with which He gave up his life for us. This is about God's universal love, which is without conditions and without limits, which fins its apex on the cross. In that moment of extreme abasement of self, and abandonment to the Father, the Son of God has shown and given to the world the fullness of love. Thinking back to the passion and Christ's agony, the disciples understood the meaning of those words: "as I have loved you, so you too must love one another."
Jesus loved us first, He loved us in spite of our frailties, our limitations and our human weaknesses. It was He who ensured that we might become worthy of his love that knows no limits and never ends. Giving us the new commandment, He asks us to love one another not only with our love, but with His love, that the Holy Spirit instils in our hearts if we invoke him with faith. In this way – and only then – can we love each other not only as we love ourselves, but as He loves us, that is immensely more. God loves us far more than we love ourselves. And so we can spread the seed of love that renews relationships between people and opens horizons of love. Jesus always open horizons of hope, His love open horizons of hope. This love makes us new men, brothers and sisters in the Lord, and makes us the new people of God, that is, the Church, in which all are called to love Christ and in Him to love one another.
Love to which we are called to live as manifested in the cross of Christ is the only force that transforms our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh; the only force capable of transforming our heart is the love of Jesus, if we too love with this love. This love makes us capable of loving our enemies and forgiving those who have offended. I will ask you a question, that each of you must answer in their heart. Am I able to love my enemies? All of us have people, maybe they are people that are not enemies, but are people that we don't get along with, or we have people who have offended us; we are capable of loving these people. That man or woman who has wounded me, and offended me. I am capable of forgiving them. I invite each one of you to respond in your hearts. The love of Jesus makes the other person a current or future member of the community of Jesus friends . This love stimulates us to dialog and helps us to listen to each other and know each other. Love opens us to the other and becomes the basis of human relationships. It enables us to overcome weaknesses and prejudices. The love of Jesus in us creates bridges, teaches new ways, and triggers the dynamism of fraternity. May the Virgin Mary help us, with her maternal intercession, to welcome her son Jesus for the gift of his commandment, and from the Holy Spirit the strength to practice it in everyday life.
Dear brothers and sisters!
We have heard a passage of the Sermon on the Plain, taken from the Gospel of Luke. After choosing his disciples and proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus adds: “But I say to you that listen, love your enemies” (Lk 6:27). Today, his words are also addressed to us, who hear them in this Stadium.
Jesus speaks with clarity, simplicity and firmness as he traces a path, a narrow path that demands certain virtues. For Jesus is no idealist, someone who ignores reality. He is talking about specific enemies, real enemies, the kind he described in the previous Beatitude (v. 22): those who hate us, exclude us, revile us and defame us.
Many of you can still tell your own stories of violence, hatred and conflict; some concerning things that happened to you personally, others concerning people you knew who are no longer alive, and others still, out of fear that the past wounds will reopen and reverse the progress already made towards peace, as in Cabo Delgado.
Jesus is not calling us to an abstract, ethereal or theoretical love, like that celebrated in fine speeches. The path he proposes is one that he himself already took, the path that led him to love those who betrayed him, who judged him unjustly, who would kill him.
It is not easy to speak of reconciliation while wounds are still open from the years of conflict, or to take a step towards forgiveness, which is not the same as ignoring pain or giving up our memories or ideals (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 100). Even so, Jesus is calling us to love and to do good. This means much more than simply ignoring the persons who harmed us, or trying to avoid encountering them. Jesus commands us to show an active, impartial and extraordinary benevolence towards those who have hurt us. Nor does Jesus stop there. He also asks us to bless them and to pray for them. In other words, to speak of them with words of blessing, with words of life not death, to speak their names not in insult or revenge, but to establish a new bond which brings peace. It is a high standard that the Master sets before us!
In inviting us to do this, Jesus wants to end forever that common practice of being Christians yet living under the law of retaliation. We cannot look to the future, or build a nation, an equitable society, on the basis of violence. I cannot follow Jesus if I live my life by the rule of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for tooth”.
No family, no group of neighbours, no ethnic group, much less a nation, has a future if the force that unites them, brings them together and resolves their differences is vengeance and hatred. We cannot come to terms and unite for the sake of revenge, or treating others with the same violence with which they treated us, or plotting opportunities for retaliation under apparently legal auspices. “Weapons of violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts” (Evangelii Gaudium, 60). An “equity” born of violence is always a spiral with no escape, and its cost is extremely high. Yet another path is possible, for it is crucial not to forget that our peoples have a right to peace. You have a right to peace.
To make his commandment more concrete and applicable in daily life, Jesus proposes a first golden rule, one within the reach of all. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk 6:31). And he helps us realize what is most important in this way of acting towards others: to love each other, to help each other and to lend without expecting anything in return.
“Love one another”, Jesus tells us. Paul translates this as “clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness” (Col 3:12). The world disregards and continues to ignore the virtue of mercy, of compassion. It kills or abandons the handicapped and the elderly, eliminates the wounded and infirm, or shows itself more concerned with the suffering of animals. It has not practiced the goodness and kindness that lead us to consider the needs of our beloved neighbour as our own.
Overcoming times of division and violence calls not only for an act of reconciliation or peace, in the sense of an absence of conflict. It also calls for daily commitment on the part of everyone to an attentive and active concern that makes us treat others with the same mercy and goodness with which we ourselves want to be treated. An attitude of mercy and goodness above all towards those who, by their place in society, quickly encounter rejection and exclusion. An attitude not of the weak but of the strong, an attitude of men and women who realize that it is not necessary to mistreat, denigrate or crush others in order to feel ourselves important, but rather the contrary… And this attitude is the prophetic strength that Jesus Christ himself showed us by his desire to be identified with them (cf. Mt 25:35-45) and by teaching us the path of service.
Mozambique is a land of abundant natural and cultural riches, yet paradoxically, great numbers of its people live below the poverty level. And at times it seems that those who approach with the alleged desire to help have other interests. Sadly, this happens with brothers and sisters of the same land, who let themselves be corrupted. It is very dangerous to think that corruption is the price to be paid for foreign aid.
“It cannot be like that with you” (Mt 20:26; cf. vv. 26-28). Jesus’ words urge us to take the lead in a different way of acting: that of his kingdom. To be seeds, here and now, of joy and hope, peace and reconciliation. What the Spirit has come to bring about is not a feverish activism but above all a concern for others, acknowledging and appreciating them as our brothers and sisters, even to the point of identifying with their lives and their pain. This is the best barometer for gauging any kind of ideology that would manipulate the poor and situations of injustice for the sake of political or personal interest (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 199). In this way, in all those places where we encounter one another, we can be seeds and instruments of peace and reconciliation.
We want peace to reign in our hearts and in the lives of our people. We want a future of peace. We want “the peace of Christ to reign in our hearts” (Col 3.15), as the letter of Saint Paul said so well. Here Paul uses a word taken from the world of sports, which evokes the umpire or referee who settles disputed issues. “May the peace of Christ act as the umpire in your hearts”. If the peace of Christ acts as the umpire in our hearts, whenever our feelings are in conflict or we feel torn between two contrary feelings, “we should play Christ’s game”, and let his decision keep us on the path of love, the path of mercy, in the option for the most poor and the protection of nature. The path of peace. If Jesus were to serve as the umpire for the conflicting emotions in our hearts, in the complex decisions of our country, then Mozambique will be ensured a future of hope. Then your country will “sing with heartfelt gratitude to God in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Col 3:16).
Jesus quotes the ancient law: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Mt 5:38; Ex 21:24). We know what that law meant: when someone takes something from you, you are to take the same thing from him. This law of retaliation was actually a sign of progress, since it prevented excessive retaliation. If someone harms you, then you can repay him or her in the same degree; you cannot do something worse. Ending the matter there, in a fair exchange, was a step forward.
But Jesus goes far beyond this: “But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil” (Mt 5:39). But how, Lord? If someone thinks badly of me, if someone hurts me, why can I not repay him with the same currency? “No”, says Jesus. Nonviolence. No act of violence.
We might think that Jesus’ teaching is a part of a plan; in the end, the wicked will desist. But that is not why Jesus asks us to love even those who do us harm. What, then, is the reason? It is that the Father, our Father, continues to love everyone, even when his love is not reciprocated. The Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (v. 45). In today’s first reading, he tells us: “You shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). In other words: “Live like me, seek the things that I seek”. And that is precisely what Jesus did. He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death, but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists (cf. Lk 23:33-34).
If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way; there is no other. Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do. You may well say: “But Jesus goes too far! He even says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who they persecute you” (Mt 5:44). Surely he speaks like this to gain people’s attention, but he cannot really mean it”. But he really does. Here Jesus is not speaking in paradoxes or using nice turns of phrase. He is direct and clear. He quotes the ancient law and solemnly tells us: “But I say to you: love your enemies”. His words are deliberate and precise.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference. Pray and love: this is what we must do; and not only with regard to those who love us, not only with regard to our friends or our own people. The love of Jesus knows no boundaries or barriers. The Lord demands of us the courage to have a love that does not count the cost. Because the measure of Jesus is love without measure. How many times have we neglected that demand, behaving like everyone else! Yet his commandment of love is not simply a challenge; it is the very heart of the Gospel. Where the command of universal love is concerned, let us not accept excuses or preach prudent caution. The Lord was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises. He asks of us the extremism of charity. This is the only legitimate kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love.
Love your enemies. We do well today, at Mass and afterwards, to repeat these words to ourselves and apply them to those who treat us badly, who annoy us, whom we find hard to accept, who trouble our serenity. Love your enemies. We also do well to ask ourselves: “What am I really concerned about in this life? About my enemies, or about those who dislike me? Or about loving?” Do not worry about the malice of others. about those who think ill of you. Instead, begin to disarm your heart out of love for Jesus. For those who love God have no enemies in their hearts.
The worship of God is contrary to the culture of hatred. And the culture of hatred is fought by combatting the cult of complaint. How many times do we complain about the things that we lack, about the things that go wrong! Jesus knows about all the things that don’t work. He knows that there is always going to be someone who dislikes us. Or someone who makes our life miserable. All he asks us to do is pray and love. This is the revolution of Jesus, the greatest revolution in history: from hating our enemy to loving our enemy; from the cult of complaint to the culture of gift. If we belong to Jesus, this is the road we are called to take! There is no other.
True enough, you can object: “I understand the grandeur of the ideal, but that is not how life really is! If I love and forgive, I will not survive in this world, where the logic of power prevails and people seem to be concerned only with themselves”. So is Jesus’ logic, his way of seeing things, the logic of losers? In the eyes of the world, it is, but in the eyes of God it is the logic of winners. As Saint Paul told us in the second reading: “Let no one deceive himself... For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:18-19). God sees what we cannot see. He knows how to win. He knows that evil can only be conquered by goodness. That is how he saved us: not by the sword, but by the cross. To love and forgive is to live as a conqueror. We will lose if we defend the faith by force.
The Lord would repeat to us the words he addressed to Peter in Gethsemane: “Put your sword into its sheath” (Jn 18:11). In the Gethsemanes of today, in our indifferent and unjust world that seems to testify to the agony of hope, a Christian cannot be like those disciples who first took up the sword and later fled. No, the solution is not to draw our sword against others, or to flee from the times in which we live. The solution is the way of Jesus: active love, humble love, love “to the end” (Jn 13:1).
Dear brothers and sisters, today Jesus, with his limitless love, raises the bar of our humanity. In the end, we can ask ourselves: “Will we be able to make it?” If the goal were impossible, the Lord would not have asked us to strive for it. By our own effort, it is difficult to achieve; it is a grace and it needs to be implored. Ask God for the strength to love. Say to him: “Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you”. But we also have to ask for the grace to be able to see others not as hindrances and complications, but as brothers and sisters to be loved. How often we pray for help and favours for ourselves, yet how seldom do we pray to learn how to love! We need to pray more frequently for the grace to live the essence of the Gospel, to be truly Christian. For “in the evening of life, we will be judged on love” (Saint John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love, 57).
Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide. Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures. Let us accept the challenge of Jesus, the challenge of charity. Then we will be true Christians and our world will be more human.
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
In the Gospel of today’s Liturgy, Jesus gives some basic life guidance to the disciples. The Lord refers to the most difficult situations, those that constitute the litmus test for us, those that confront us with those who are enemies and hostile to us, those who are always trying to do us harm. In such cases, the disciple of Jesus is called not to give in to instinct and hatred, but to go further, much further. Go beyond instinct, go beyond hatred. Jesus says: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lk 6:27). And even more concretely: “To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (v. 29). When we hear this, it seems that the Lord is asking the impossible. And then, why love your enemies? If you do not react to the bullies, every abuse of power is given free rein, and this is not right. But is it really so? Does the Lord really ask impossible and indeed even unjust things of us? Is it so?
Let us consider first and foremost that sense of injustice that we feel in “turning the other cheek”. And let us think of Jesus. During the passion, in his unjust trial before the high priest, at one point he receives a slap from one of the guards. And how does He react? He does not insult him, no: he says to the guard, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Jn 18:23). He asks for an account of the wrong done to him. Turning the other cheek does not mean suffering in silence, giving in to injustice. Jesus, with his question, denounces what is unjust. But he does so without anger, without violence, indeed with kindness. He does not wish to spark off an argument, but rather to defuse resentment, this is important: to extinguish hatred and injustice together, seeking to restore the guilty brother. This is not easy, but Jesus did it and he tells us to do likewise. This is turning the other cheek: Jesus’ mildness is a stronger response to the slap he received. Turning the other cheek is not the withdrawal of the loser, but the action of one who has a greater inner strength. Turning the other cheek means defeating evil with the goodness that opens up a breach in the heart of the enemy, unmasking the absurdity of his hatred. And this attitude, this turning the other cheek, is dictated not by calculation or by hatred, but by love. Dear brothers and sisters, it is the freely given, undeserved love we receive from Jesus that generates in the heart a way of doing things that is similar to his, that rejects all vengeance. We are accustomed to revenge: “You did this to me, I will do that to you”, or to bearing a grudge in our heart, resentment that harms, destroys the person.
Let us come to another objection: is it possible for a person to come to love his or her enemies? If it depended only on us, it would be impossible. But let us recall that, when the Lord asks for something, he wishes to give it. The Lord never asks for something he has not already given us first. When he tells me to love my enemies, he wants to give me the capacity to do so. Without that ability, we would not be capable, but he tells you to “love your enemy” and gives you the capacity to love. Saint Augustine prayed in this way – listen to this beautiful prayer: Lord, “give what you command, and command what you will” (Confessions, X, 29.40), because you have already given it to me. What should we ask of him? What is God happy to give us? The strength to love, which is not a thing, but rather the Holy Spirit. The strength to love is the Holy Spirit, and with the Spirit of Jesus, we can respond to evil with good, we can love those who do us harm. This is what Christians do. How sad it is, when people and populations proud to be Christians see others as enemies and think to wage war against each other! It is very sad.
And us, shall we try to live following Jesus’ invitations? Think of someone who has wronged us. Each one of you, think of a person. It is common for us to be hurt by someone; think of that person. Perhaps we hold a grudge within. So, let us set alongside this resentment the image of Jesus, meek, during the trial, after the slap. And then let us ask the Holy Spirit to act in our heart. Finally, let us pray for that person: let us pray for those who have done us harm (see Lk 6:28). When people harm us, we immediately go and tell others and we feel we are victims. Let us stop, and pray to the Lord for that person, that he might help him or her, and so this feeling of resentment will be dispelled. Praying for those who have wronged us is the first step to transforming evil into good. Prayer. May the Virgin Mary help us be workers of peace towards everyone, especially those who are hostile to us and whom we do not like.