Merciful Like the Father
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
It is not easy to take the words of our Lord seriously. “Love your enemies?!” “Do good to those who hate you?!” “Bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you??!!” Seriously, Lord?! Just think of the things others have said and done against you. Just remember those who strongly disagree with you in many ways. The Lord also added towards the end of today’s Gospel, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” What a tough challenge the Lord is throwing our way! In reality, is it easy to forgive? Can a person forgive someone who bore false witness and accused him/her of something? Is it easy to forgive the person who murdered someone whom you love? Can a person forgive the one who broke into their house and took away everything that they have? Is it easy to forgive the person who left his/her spouse and their children behind? The questions can go on and on. In our experience, it is not always easy to forgive especially if those that were committed against us are grave. It takes a lot of effort physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually in order to forgive and accept what had happened.
Our Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel is raising the practice of His disciples to a higher level. He is inviting them and all those who follow Him, which includes us, to take the higher moral ground. Not only must we love our neighbors and fellow believers, but also we must love our enemies and those who persecute us, for that makes us children of the Most High. Our Lord Jesus tells us to love our enemies so that we may be like the Father. What is the Father like? This is what Jesus tells us: “He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” In another Gospel, Jesus uses this imagery about the Father: “He makes his sun to rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” The Father of our Lord Jesus is love. That’s all God is; that’s all he knows how to do. God is not like us: unstable and moving from one attitude to another. God is merciful. God is simply love.
How do we express then our love even to our enemies and those who persecute us? The first way to love them is to pray for them. What are we going to ask the Lord for them? We pray that they may find the truth, live peacefully, learn to also forgive, and be joyful. In other words, we pray for their salvation. Praying for one’s enemies is suggested by Christ because it will not only bring about good towards those we consider as enemies but also to ourselves. Through this, we also live peacefully and be saved. Slowly the anger within us and the seeking for revenge will be watered down. In forgiving and praying for our enemies and those who persecute us, we show the Father’s loving mercy, His perfection on us to others. G.K. Chesterton, an English writer, philosopher, and lay theologian once wrote, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”
In one of the retreats, a speaker posed a question to his audience, “Is it possible to forgive and forget?” Two stood up, gave a positive answer and shared their thoughts backed up with experience. After listening to them, one raised her hand, gave a different answer, and shared it to everyone. She said, “To forgive does not assure us of forgetting about what happened. The experience had been intense and brought pain and anger to the person concerned. Surely, it is never easy to forget, since the pain has wounded the person. The beautiful thing is this: when we forgive, we are able to accept the person and the events that happened even with the pain and wounds. We are able to go beyond the emotions and come to truly love the person. This is something that we are not capable of doing. Forgiveness is a grace from God that we receive and we can also give to others.” These words made everyone in that room to pause and reflect.
Brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus is inviting us today to continue following Him even if it’s not easy. His Word today challenges us to truly love, to sincerely forgive, and go beyond our natural inclination to hit and hurt back. Later when we pray the Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer) and reach the point when we say/sing, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,’ let us ask the Father for the grace and strength to truly love and to sincerely forgive. Allow me to end this sharing with an anecdote: A story is told about two friends who were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: “TODAY MY BESTFRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.” They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone, “TODAY MY BESTFRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.” The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?” The other friend replied, “When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.” Brothers and sisters, let us learn to write our hurts in the sand and to carve goodness in stone. Let us be merciful just as our Heavenly Father is merciful. Amen.
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