Intention: That God may bless and protect all those who carry healing and peace to the poor, the abused, and the forgotten people of the world.
Today’s Gospel | Matthew 5: 43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
A Lenten Reflection
Over the years, the life and teachings of Jesus routinely have been subjected to a type of revisionism intended to soften their radical demands and make them compatible with self-serving purposes. Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ call to love our enemies has been especially scrutinized for what Jesus could have “really” meant, as a society rooted in competition for superiority and control simply cannot work with a call to build a world where power is measured by what you can do for others and not by what you can do to them.
We learn from today’s Gospel that such equating of forgiveness with weakness betrays a deep misunderstanding of both. Forgiveness, in fact, is the ultimate human expression of strength. Rather than diminishing people’s accountability and respect, it promotes them by engendering the trust and cooperation needed to overcome the debilitating effects of sin. Rather than compromising a community’s spirit, it empowers it by keeping it in the way of healing and conversion that is the true path to integrity. Forgiveness transforms a broken world by replacing defeat with victory and surrender with hope.
Author Marianne Williamson writes, “Until we have seen someone’s darkness, we don’t really know who they are. Until we have forgiven someone’s darkness, we don’t really know what love is.” Without forgiveness, either given or received, we cannot experience the compassion that reveals our oneness and chases from our hearts the ignorance and fear that divide and cripple us. Lent can be a powerful space for restoration as we take the time to find ourselves once again by remembering how to welcome one another.
Eternal Father, your Son came to us so that, through his sacrifice on the cross, we would be reconciled to you and to each other. In this time of Lent, bring us together as your body, your church, your people. May we open our hearts to once again welcome each other with joy and without judgment as brothers and sisters in you. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.