Introduction: The readings today are linked together by one main theme: the power of Christian love, when exercised in unconditional forgiveness. The readings also instruct us about our right and wrong choices. The right choices lead us to God, and the wrong ones break our relationship with Him and with one another. The first reading shows us how David made the right choice respecting God’s anointed king by forgiving his offenses, while Saul continued to make the wrong choices, perpetuating his misery with his revenge. In the Responsorial Psalm, Ps 103, the Psalmist reminds us of the mercy of God and His compassion for us “as a Father has compassion on His children.” In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how the “First Adam” made a wrong choice of disobedience, bringing death into the world, whereas Jesus, the “Second Adam,” made the correct choice of fulfilling his Father’s saving plan. Today’s Gospel (Luke 6:27-38), gives us Jesus’ revolutionary moral teaching about correct choices in our human relationships, placing special emphasis on the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This Golden Rule, is amplified by a string of particular commands: “Love your enemies…Do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.” For Jesus, love is a fundamental attitude that seeks another’s good. Jesus orders us to love our enemies and to be merciful as God our Father is merciful. Jesus challenges us to do for others what God does for us. “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” He concludes by instructing us to stop judging and start forgiving.
The first reading (1 Sm 26: 2: 7-9, 12-13, 22-23) explained: This reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, gives us a vivid example of self-control, forgiveness, and mercy. The ancient Israelites were governed first by Moses, then by a long line of judges. Since they noticed the progress made by their Gentile neighbors who had kings, the Israelites finally prevailed on their last Judge, Samuel to ask God for a king for them. (1 Samuel: 8). The king was Saul. In Saul’s army, the youth David won a famous victory over Goliath, and thereby gained the admiration of the people and the envy of King Saul. Saul and his “three thousand picked men” went in search of David to kill him. Yet, David and Abishai were able to steal into Saul’s camp and stand over the sleeping king. But David turned down Abishai’s offer to “nail Saul to the ground with one thrust of the spear.” ”Do not harm him,” David commanded. Then taking Saul’s spear and water jug, he went to an opposite hill and yelled across to Abner, Saul’s lieutenant: “Here is the king’s spear…. Today, though Yahweh delivered him into my grasp, I would not harm Yahweh’s anointed.”David’s sense of justice, spirit of forgiveness, and respect for Divine authority helped him to go beyond the retaliation which others expected him to show. David is an image of Christ and an example to us. If he can forgive his mortal enemy, so can, and so should, we.
The second reading (I Cor. 15:45-49) explained: Here we have Saint Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus, contrasting Christ, “the last Adam,” with Adam, the “first Adam.” He reminds the Corinthian community that everyone shares in the sinful nature of the “first Adam.” But he encourages his followers to remember that by Baptism they also share in the spiritual nature of Jesus — the “last Adam.” Hence, we Christians are expected to go beyond our earthly, natural desire to seek revenge and retaliation. Instead, when we are injured, we are to offer the Christian response of forgiveness and mercy, whether our culture accepts or rejects it. If, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we do so, we share in the life of the risen Christ, both here and now, and after our death.
Gospel exegesis: The Gospel passage contains four commands of Jesus: love, forgive, do good, and pray. They specify the kind of love that the Christian follower is expected to show toward an enemy. The ‘enemy’ is one who injures hates or rejects the Christian.
1) Love your enemies: This command proposes a course of action that is contrary to human nature. Jesus invites those who follow him to repudiate their natural inclinations and instead follow his example and the example of the heavenly Father. He recommends, not merely a warm affection (philia), such as one might have for one’s family, or a passionate devotion (eros), such as one might expect between spouses, but a gracious, active interest (agape), in the welfare of precisely those persons who are antagonistic to us. Agape is the love that cares deeply for others simply because they are created in God’s image, and wishes them well because that is what God wishes. Jesus not only commanded us to love our enemies, he also gave us the most vivid and awesome example of this type of love in action. While hanging on the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
2) Offer your other cheek to the one who strikes you. This injunction and that in v. 30, cut through the old principle of retaliation (Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20; Dt 19:21-30). Jesus is not saying that we should permit the destruction of the innocent and defenseless or allow ourselves to be abused or killed! The Catechism is very clear on this point: “Self-defense is morally legitimate, as long as it’s proportional to the attack. Let us remember that the commandment is ‘Love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF’…Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life” (CCC 2264). What are the challenges Jesus gives us in this command to “turn the other cheek”? First, he challenges us to forgive others totally and completely, which means letting go of any and every grudge. He also challenges us not to seek vengeance. In addition, he wants us to be patient with the shortcomings of others and to love everyone, even our enemies. (CCC-2264). So the bottom line is this: It’s morally wrong not to defend the innocent, when we have a responsibility to do so; it’s morally legitimate to defend ourselves from an unjust aggressor; but it can be virtuousto endure unjust sufferings and even martyrdom for the sake of Jesus Christ and his Gospel.
3) “Forgive and you will be forgiven. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” This message might have sounded very strange to the Jews, who were familiar with a God who was merciful to his own people and vengeful to their enemies, as pictured in Psalms 18, 72 and 92. But Jesus repeats his teaching on forgiveness, both in the prayer he taught his disciples “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” (Mt 68:12; Lk 11:4), and in his final commandment to his apostles, “Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another” (Jn 15:12). Another good reason for us to forgive our enemies is, “(so that everyone will know that we are disciples of the Most High” (Jn 13:34-35). That is, Christian forgiveness can be a form of evangelization. Jesus does not advise his followers to overlook evils, wars, economic disparity, and exploitation of the vulnerable. Instead, we are called to forgive, to be merciful and not to retaliate. But we cannot achieve this level of love and forgiveness by ourselves. We need the power of God working through us by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
4) The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”Christian ethics consists not in merely refraining from evil, but in actively doing good, not only to those who are friends, but to those who hate us or do evil against us. In other words, Jesus expects us to rise above our human instincts and imitate the goodness and generosity of God. The observance of the golden rule makes us like God whose love and mercy embrace saints and sinners alike. At the same time the Golden Rule does not require that we allow others to take advantage of us.
1) Invitation to grace-filled behavior: What makes Christianity distinct from any other religion is the quality known as grace, i.e., God’s own life working in us, so that we are able to treat others, not as they deserve but with love, kindness and mercy. God is good to the unjust as well as to the just. Hence our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. When we pray for those who do us wrong, we break the power of hate in ourselves and in others and release the power of love. How can we possibly love those who cause us harm? God gives the necessary power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers our hurts, fears, prejudices and grief. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment, and give us the courage to return good for evil.
2) Accept the challenges of day-to-day life. Jesus challenges our willingness to endure unjust suffering for his sake and the sake of his Gospel. For example, we must often endure the suffering that comes when a co-worker calls us “a religious fanatic” because we believe in the Ten Commandments; the pain that comes when family members refuse to associate with us because we take our Faith seriously and refuse to compromise our beliefs; the suffering that comes to a practicing Christian youth who is ostracized by his friends because he won’t do drugs or engage in promiscuous sexual activity. These are examples of the “little martyrdoms” that Jesus challenges us to embrace every day in his name! (CCC 2264)
3) Pray for the strength to forgive. At every Mass we pray the “Our Father,” asking God to forgive us as we forgive others. Our challenge is to overcome our natural inclination to hate. To meet that challenge we need to ask God for the strength to forgive each other. Each of us needs to ask: do I have anyone in my life I call an enemy? Is there anyone who actually hates me? Are there people who would really curse me? Is there anyone in my life who mistreats me-–a boss, a teacher, a parent, a co-worker, a family member, a former spouse? These things hurt us, and they are often difficult to forgive. However, we must forgive, because only forgiveness truly heals us. If we remember how God has forgiven us, it will help us forgive others. For those who have hurt us, Jesus tells us our response should be love: “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Let us start forgiving right now by curbing the sharp tongue of criticism, suppressing the revenge instinct and tolerating the irritating behavior of a neighbor.
4) Let us try to live our lives in accordance with “the Golden Rule.“ Let us examine our conscience. Is generosity central to our lives, or do we often choose selfishness instead? Are we willing to trust in God’s providence, or do we place our Faith in ourselves? Do we really accept and embrace our responsibility for one another and for the world we live in, or do we see all things in terms of our own wants and needs? Do we allow emotions such as hatred and jealousy guide our spiritual lives, or do we try to be more like our Lord?
Continuing his Sermon on the Plain, Jesus again turns upside down another accepted standard of Jewish morality. The principle of “do to no one what you yourself dislike” (as articulated in Tobit 4: 15) was not enough for those who seek to be God's holy people. Jesus demands that his disciples “love your enemies.”
The Greek word for love used in this text is agape, a sense of benevolence, kindness and charity towards others. In other words, no matter what a person does to us we will never allow ourselves to seek anything but the highest good for him or her. The radical love of God that is the mark of the Christian is presented clearly and emphatically here. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus calls us not just to passive adherence to the standard of the “Golden Rule,” but to actively seek out the good in every one, to risk being duped or hurt in our compassion and forgiveness of another. The completeness and limitlessness of God's own love and mercy for us should be the measure of our love and mercy for one another.
HOMILY POINTS:In every relationship, in every set of circumstances, the faithful disciple of Jesus seeks to break the cycle of hatred and distrust by taking that often-formidable first step to love, to seek reconciliation above all else.
Seeing beyond hatreds and differences, borders and boundaries, flags and uniforms, languages and cultures, suspicions and unsettled scores is the cutting edge of the Gospel. The relationship we seek with God we must first seek with one another.
“In good times and in bad times”In his book Overcoming Life’s Disappointments, Rabbi Harold Kushner tells of meeting with a young couple to prepare their wedding ceremony. Everything was going well until the prospective bridegroom asked:
“Rabbi Kushner, would you be willing to make one small change in the ceremony? Instead of pronouncing us husband and wife till death do us part, could you pronounce us husband and wife for as long as our love lasts? We’ve talked about this, and we both feel that if we ever get to the point where we no longer love each other, it’s not morally right for us to be stuck with each other and be deprived of any chance for happiness.”
Rabbi Kushner would not agree to the change.
“I told them that I respected their distaste for hypocrisy, for not wanting to live in a loveless marriage,” Rabbi Kushner writes. “I told them that I could understand their fear of making a total commitment to this marriage because it might hurt too much if it didn’t work out. But I warned them that if they didn’t enter this marriage on the assumption that it was for keeps, if they moved in together but didn’t totally unpack, ready to move out when things got tough, there was no chance that they would be happy together. They would not be committed enough to stay together during the inevitable tough times . . . One of the promises a husband and wife make to each other is the commitment to stick together through the hard times in the faith that the hard times will one day end and the affection they once felt for each other will reemerge.”
That is Jesus’ point in today’s Gospel: love — authentic love — is hard work. But love endures long after the romance hardens into reality; love finds its fulfillment in diapers and mortgages and college tuition and the messes and complexities of everyday life; love dares to hope and sacrifice despite the disappointments and hurts. May we dare to love as God loves us: regardless of the cost and sacrifice, without limit or condition, totally and completely, in the eternal hope that such love will transform us and those we love in the life of God.
I am often uncomfortable when someone tells me they love me. I am not talking about an honest affirmation, but about a critic who has just taken my hide off and concludes the shellacking with an account of her godly affection. "Brother Bayer, you are a rotten, no good, pagan, secular-humanist, but I want you to know that because I am Christian and I love you." Thanks just the same, but I'd rather be despised.
Occasionally someone that I have a difficult time loving will cross my path. When I'm honest I admit I would be just as happy if he dropped off the face of the earth. But I refuse to snarl and then describe how my Christian love extends even to him. Will Rogers may never have met a man he didn't like, but the rest of us know that somewhere along the line we have run into folk we flat-out detest. At least I have.
The gospel lesson this morning is a continuation of Jesus' Sermon on the Plain. It is plain talk -- tough talk -- hard to listen to talk. We come today to his most difficult teaching. Here is what sets apart the Christian faith from other religious perspectives, philosophic constructs, psychological systems and elemental common sense. And yet, at the end of the day, it defines the core of Christian ethics.
"Love your enemies," Jesus says. "Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Can we really love our enemies? If not, why did Jesus lay on us this impossible demand? If the teaching troubles you, fear not, you are not the first to back away from this bit of divine fire....
It's worth taking a moment to examine our life philosophy because, in many ways, it creates our legacy. It's like a GPS for our life. Most of you have had some experience with a GPS system in your automobile or, perhaps, your smart phone and know how it works. You program your destination into your GPS and it gives you the directions you need to get where you need to go. These technological wonders are a great gift to many of us, especially those who are "directionally challenged."
Of course, it's possible for a GPS to malfunction. I read recently of three women who escaped after the GPS system in their rented Mercedes SUV drove them into a lake. Talk about a living nightmare.
According to one of the women, the driver thought she was on a road, but instead the GPS directed them down a boat launch and into a shallow lake near Bellevue, Washington. It was dark and the women were trying to find their way to a conference they were attending when, without warning, the SUV crashed into the water at a local state park. One of the women immediately jumped to safety. The other two women tried to stay with the SUV as long as they could by standing on the side door frames, but they finally had to wade to safety when the vehicle kept drifting out farther into the lake. All three women made it out safely, but the SUV was completely under water. So, be careful out there. Even GPS systems, as wonderful as they are, can mislead you.
Of course, GPS systems have benefits besides generally being reliable guides through unfamiliar cities...
In a sermon written in a Georgia jail and preached just after the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said this about loving your enemies:
After noting that hate is just as injurious to the hater as the hated, Dr. King says,
"Of course this is not practical; life is a matter of getting even, of hitting back, of dog eat dog... My friends, we have followed the so-called practical way for too long a time now, and it has led inexorably to deeper confusion and chaos. Time is cluttered with the wreckage of communities which surrendered to hatred and violence. For the salvation of our nation and the salvation of mankind, we must follow another way. This does not mean that we abandon our righteous efforts. With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community."
Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: the Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., page 596, quoted by Chuck Queen, Love Your Enemies
Love Your Enemy
It's a story that is repeated on every elementary school playground, nearly every day in our country. Two fourth-graders get into it during recess; something about "he did this, so I did that" and it kind of goes south from there. When they get back to class, Billy trips Joey. After lunch, Joey breaks Billy's pencil on purpose. When nobody is looking, Billy writes on Joey's desk, and later, Joey steals Billy's folder. After school, Billy and his friends face Joey and his friends, and they call each other names. Somebody gets hurt. Somebody else gets hurt worse. And then there is no telling when or if these conflicts will ever end.
Sound familiar? We have all experienced this sort of escalating pettiness and we readily admit that it is silly. But I would suggest to you that we can remove the names "Billy" and "Joey" and insert the words "husband" and "wife" and the story is much the same. Or we could insert the names of two rival high schools, or two rival companies, or "The Hatfields" and "The McCoys." Or Republicans and Democrats, or "pro-life" and "pro-choice," or Israel and Palestine, or America and almost any Arab nation you care to name. Conflict at any level is conflict. And if not preventable, most conflict is at least resolvable...but not until one side refuses to retaliate and instead decides to reconcile.
Steve Molin, He Hit Me First!
Reconciliation: Refusing to Retaliate
A Christian Conception of Justice
The nature of men and of organized society dictates the maintenance in every field of action of the highest and purest standards of justice and of right dealing.... By justice the lawyer generally means the prompt, fair, and open application of impartial rules; but we call ours a Christian civilization, and a Christian conception of justice must be much higher. It must include sympathy and helpfulness and a willingness to forego self-interest in order to promote the welfare, happiness, and contentment of others and of the community as a whole.
Petty Wins by Revenge
Some years ago, as a hundred thousand fans watched, Richard Petty ended a 45 race losing streak and picked up stock racing's biggest purse--$73,500. It all happened at the Daytona 500. Petty's win, however, was a complete surprise. Going into the last lap, he was running 30 seconds behind the two leaders. All at once the car in second place tried to pass the No. 1 man on the final stretch. This caused the first car to drift inside and force the challenger onto the infield grass, and slightly out of control. What happened next was incredible. The offended driver pulled his car back onto the track, caught up with the leader, and forced him into the outside wall. Both vehicles came to a screeching halt. The two drivers jumped out and quickly got into an old-fashioned slugging match. In the meantime, third-place Petty cruised by for the win.
Forgiveness Is a New Life
Immaculee Ilibagiza was a 22-year-old university student in the 1990s when terrible violence broke out in her home country of Rwanda. Hutus killed her parents, her brothers, and hundreds of her Tutsi friends. A Hutu pastor, who risked his life to save her, hid her and six other women. They lived in a small bathroom, a wooden wardrobe covering the door. For three months, they endured hunger, fear, and the sounds of soldiers in the house unsuccessfully searching for Tutsis.
In those cramped quarters, she began to pray the Rosary. Always she stumbled over the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." She knew that the prayer called her to forgive those who had killed her family and endangered her. She didn't think she could do it, but she realized she was consumed by hate. She was afraid she would become like the people who had killed her family. Nevertheless, in her mind, forgiving her family's killers was like forgiving the devil. Finally, afraid that her hate would crush her heart, she asked God to forgive those who had done her so much harm. Slowly, with God's help, she was able to let go and forgive her family's killers. Eventually, she even visited one of her brother's killers in prison, taking his hand and offering forgiveness. She says that forgiveness saved her life. "It's a new life, almost like a resurrection."
Charles L. Aaron, Jr., Becoming The Salt and The Light, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
But If He Strikes the Other Cheek...
A friend of mine, a fine Christian man, was struggling with this text. He didn't like the "turn the other cheek" idea very much. He finally resolved it! He said, "If someone strikes me on one cheek, I will turn the other. But if he strikes me on that cheek, watch out!"
Richard Niell Donovan, Peacemaking
Who Are My Enemies?
What Christians Are Really Made Of
Love Your Enemies
Former Boston Red Sox Hall-of-Fame third baseman Wade Boggs hated Yankee Stadium. Not because of the Yankees; they never gave him that much trouble but because of a fan. That's right: one fan.
The guy had a box seat close to the field, and when the Red Sox were in town he would torment Boggs by shouting obscenities and insults. It's hard to imagine one fan getting under a player's skin, but this guy had the recipe.
One day as Boggs was warming up, the fan began his routine, yelling, 'Boggs, you stink' and variations on that theme. Boggs had enough. He walked directly over to the man, who was sitting in the stands...and said, 'Hey fella, are you the guy who's always yelling at me?
The man said, 'Yeah, it's me. What are you going to do about it?'....
From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:
1: Adopt an orphaned Muslim child in your Hindu family. In his autobiography, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth,” Mahatma Gandhi mentions the “Sermon on the Mount” as one of the main religious works that inspired him to search for ways of bringing about political freedom for India by non-violent resistance to oppression. He writes: “I came to see that the Sermon on the Mount was the whole of Christianity for one who wanted to live a Christian life. It is that sermon that has endeared Jesus to me.” In 1947, when British India was divided into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi went on a hunger strike to end the communal violence which had erupted between Hindu and Moslem fanatics in the Indo-Pakistani Border States. During this time, a Hindu fanatic came to him and confessed, “I will surely go to hell and no one can save me.” Gandhi asked the man why he thought he was doomed to hell. The man replied that he was a Hindu, and that Muslims had killed his child during a riot. In revenge, he had slaughtered a Muslim child and his parents, but felt very guilty afterwards. Gandhi said, “I know one way to save you from going to hell. “Find a Muslim child who has lost his parents, take him home, bring him up and educate him so that he grows up as a Muslim in your Hindu family. Then you won’t go to hell.” When Mohandas Gandhi was gunned down in 1948, his last gesture was to press his palms together and raise his folded hands to his lips in the Hindu sign of forgiveness. Martin Luther King was a great admirer of Gandhi. When a gang of racial fanatics set fire to King’s house, an Afro-American mob gathered, ready to take revenge. But he told them, “When you live by the rule ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ you end up with a nation of blind and toothless people.” Then he led the gathering in prayer for the white brothers who had burned his house. That is what the “Amazing Grace” of forgiveness, the central theme of today’s readings, is all about. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2: Meeting the President to seek pardon for the worst enemy: During the Revolutionary War, Peter Miller was the pastor of a little Baptist Church in Pennsylvania. (He was also the abbot of the community of mystics at the Ephrata Cloisters whose monks helped the fighting American soldiers with food. The Reverend Peter Miller was a friend of General George Washington and was respected for his many outstanding services to the newly born republic. He also helped the President to translate the Declaration of Independence into several foreign languages so that the Imperial Courts of Europe would be aware of the intentions of the new American government). Michael Wildman, the public prosecutor lived near the church, constantly criticizing and abusing Pastor Miller and his congregation. When Wildman was caught for spying for the British army, President George Washington sentenced him to be hanged for treason. No sooner was the sentence announced than Rev. Peter Miller set out on foot to appeal to General George Washington for his enemy’s life. The president thought that Mr. Wildman was Rev. Miller’s friend and stated that he could not save Miller’s friend because of the gravity of his guilt. Miller said, “Mr. President, Mr. Wildman is not my friend; he is my worst enemy.” “What!” exclaimed Washington, “You have walked sixty miles to save the life of your enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. Pardon is granted.” Pardon in hand, Miller hurried to the place of execution, fifteen miles away. He arrived just as the traitor was being led to the scaffold. Seeing the pastor Miller coming close to the executing officer, the condemned Wildman shouted, “Here is the old Peter Miller. He came to get his revenge by seeing me hanged.” Miler calmly stepped forward and gave him the pardon, signed by General Washington. Rev. Miller lived by the command Jesus gave us as described in today’s Gospel passage: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Adapted from Msgr. Arthur Tonne & http://rosicrucian.50webs.com/various/palo-day-washington-cried.htm).
3: Two presidents and a truck driver: When President Gerald Ford granted former President Richard Nixon “a free, full and absolute pardon” for his participation and perjury in the “Watergate” scandal, many considered Ford’s decision to be an act of weakness. In 1977, when President Jimmy Carter offered amnesty to those who, during the Vietnamese War, had avoided being conscripted, he was criticized for not enforcing the law. Both men, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, “took the heat”, as it were, because neither was motivated by partisan politics or the pressure of public opinion. Each had chosen to go beyond the limits of strict justice in order to exercise a mercy that was dictated, not by law, but by a conscience formed on Gospel principles. During the race riots in Los Angeles, in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident, a truck driver named Reginald Denny was pulled from his vehicle and severely beaten with a brick. When the case went to trial in 1993, Denny stunned the courtroom with his offer of forgiveness to those who had almost killed him. Later Denny said that only by forgiving the perpetrators of the crime against him had he been able to put the event behind him and move on. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4: “Forgive Your Enemies” The preacher’s Sunday sermon was, “Forgive Your Enemies.” He asked, “How many have forgiven their enemies?” About half held up their hands. He then repeated the question. This time about eighty percent held up their hands. He then repeated his question a third time. The entire congregation held up their hands except one elderly lady. “Mrs. Jones,” the preacher asked, “aren’t you willing to forgive your enemies?” “I don’t have any” she replied. “That is very unusual”, the preacher said. “How old are you?” “Ninety-three.” “Mrs. Jones, please come to the front and tell the congregation how a person cannot have an enemy in the world.” The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle and said: “It’s easy; I just outlived all those rascals.”
5: The preacher and the doctor: There’s a story told of a husband and wife both of whom were doctors – one a Doctor of Theology and the other a Doctor of Medicine. When their doorbell was rung and the maid answered, the inquirer would often ask for “the doctor”. The maid’s interesting reply was: “Do you want the one who preaches or the one who practices?”
6: Irish prayer: There is an old Irish blessing that goes like this, “May God bless those who love us. And those who do not love us, may He turn their hearts. And if He does not turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles so we may know them by their limping.”
20) Additional anecdotes 1) Forgive and forget: When Mahatma Gandhi was gunned down in 1948, his last gesture was one of forgiveness for his assassin; with his palms pressed together he raised his hands to his lips in the Hindu sign of forgiveness. Pope John Paul II was similarly generous. After recovering from his gunshot wounds, he visited his assailant in jail and assured him of his forgiveness. Father Lawrence Jenco, upon his release as a hostage in Beirut, said that only when he was able to forgive his kidnappers, was he able to enjoy his freedom. Only by forgiving those who had starved, degraded and brutalized him was he able to move from brokenness to wholeness before God. During the race riots in Los Angeles, in the aftermath of the Rodney King debacle, a truck driver named Reginald Denny was pulled from his vehicle and severely beaten with a brick. When the case went to trial in 1993, Denny stunned the courtroom with his offer of forgiveness to those who had almost killed him. Later Denny said that only by forgiving the perpetrators of the crime against him was he able to put the event behind him and move on. (Sanchez Files). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) Forgiveness did what Justice could not do: Do you remember the movie, “Dead Man Walking” (1995)? It was based on the book of the same name published in 1993, depicting the counseling experiences of Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph, who worked in prison ministry in Louisiana and was a long-time campaigner against the death penalty in the United States. The story is about her relationship with a criminal named Robert Willie and with one of his victims, Debbie Morris. Willie and a friend of his were convicted of going on an eight-day crime spree in which they kidnapped three eighteen-year-olds. They molested and murdered one girl, sexually assaulted another, and beat up a third. Debbie’s boyfriend was tortured, shot and paralyzed. Debbie Morris survived and Willie was executed. Because of those traumatic events, Debbie Morris was in agony for years and could not forgive Robert Willie for his crimes. For eighteen years after the incident, her life was filled with anxiety. She didn’t have an hour in which she was free of torment. She was filled with anger and hatred for everything and everybody. She hated her mother for letting her go out that night; she hated God for letting this happen to her; and needless to say, she hated Robert Willie. Sister Helen counseled her, and finally, after eighteen years, Debbie Morris found the strength to forgive Robert Willie. Debbie is now married, has two children, and is doing very well. She wrote in an article entitled “Forgiving the Dead Man Walking”: “By forgiving Robert Willie, I in no way absolve him of the responsibility for what he did. But the refusal to forgive him meant that I held on to my pain, my shame, and my self-pity. Justice didn’t do a thing to heal me. Forgiveness did.” When we hear today’s gospel we are tempted to ask: “Is Jesus serious about his teaching on forgiveness? Does Jesus expect us to subject ourselves to physical abuse and actually enjoy it? Is he saying that to defend oneself against physical attack is a sin? What does he mean when he tells us to “turn the other cheek?” Debbie Morris would answer, “Justice didn’t heal me. But forgiveness did.” Jesus is completely serious when he tells us to love our enemies and forgive them, showing them that God’s justice lies in His mercy. That’s what he tells us in today’s Gospel. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) The Marines could blast him to “kingdom come.” A little girl came home from Sunday School and asked her father if she could send a note to Osama Bin Laden. “Why him?” asked her startled father. “Because,” said the little girl, “if Mr. Bin Laden got a nice note from a little American girl, maybe he’d think that we’re not all bad and he might start liking us a little. And then maybe he’d write a note back and come out of his cave and talk to people about our differences.” “Suzie,” said the proud father, “that’s a wonderful idea. “ ”Yes,” said Suzie, “and once he’s out of the cave, the Marines could blast him to kingdom come.” I hope Suzie didn’t get that idea at Sunday School. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) The Jews eating a five-cornered cake to remember Hitler?: One day long ago, when things were looking darkest for the free world, a man named Adolph Hitler was addressing a large audience in Germany. On the front row sat a man of pronounced Semitic appearance. Following his address, Hitler came down from the platform, walked up to this man and said: “While I was speaking you were laughing. What were you laughing about?” The man replied, “I was not laughing, I was thinking. “” What were you thinking about?” asked Hitler. “I was thinking about my people, the Jews, and that you are not the first man who didn’t like us. A long time ago there was another man who didn’t like us. His name was Pharaoh and he put heavy burdens on us down there in Egypt. But for years we Jews have had a feast called Passover and at that feast we have a little three-cornered cake and we eat that cake in memory of Pharaoh. “Years later there was another man who didn’t like us. His name was Haman and he did his best to get rid of all the Jews throughout the realm of King Ahasuerus. But for years we Jews have had another feast called the feast of Purim and at that feast we have a little four-cornered cake and we eat that cake in memory of Haman. “And while you were up there speaking, sir, I was sitting here thinking and wondering what kind of a cake we were going to eat to remember you by. “ (John A. Redhead, Jr., The Past Speaks to the Future–50 Years of the Protestant Hour (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995).) How shall we treat our enemies? This Jewish gentleman was on the right track. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands.” There was once a shepherd boy who became a legendary soldier. But, after a brief time of service, he made a very powerful enemy. The shepherd boy was named David. The powerful enemy was a King of Israel, named Saul. You remember the story. The crowds chanted, “Saul has killed his thousands; David has killed his ten thousands.” (I Samuel 18:7) And Saul was consumed with envy and hatred. He chased David all over the wilderness, seeking to take his life. On one occasion, in the Desert of Ziph, Saul took three thousand soldiers with him for the express purpose of hunting David down and killing him. It was on this mission that, one night while Saul was sleeping, David slipped into his tent under the cover of dark. There lay David’s enemy asleep with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. A soldier who had accompanied David on this clandestine mission said to him, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear . . .” But David would have none of it. In his eyes, Saul was God’s anointed. So David took the spear and water jug near Saul’s head, and they left. Then David crossed over to the other side and stood on top of the hill some distance away; there was a wide space between them. “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed.” Interesting insight into David’s character. David was not always merciful to his enemies, but at least on this occasion, David’s faith in God was more important than either his desire for vengeance or his concern for his own safety, so he spared Saul’s life. How shall we treat our enemy? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) Fatwa against Salman Rushdie and Barbie dolls : You may remember when writer Salman Rushdie first gained the public eye because he had a bounty on his head. Why? For writing words critical of the Prophet, even though he is a Moslem himself. It was a harsh reminder that you can be killed in some parts of the world just for asking questions or expressing doubts. Of course, there was a time when that was true in the Christian world, too, but we conveniently forget that. It was amusing to read that Islamic fundamentalists in Kuwait recently issued a fatwa against Barbie dolls. “This she-devil has polished nails and wears skirts above the knee,” says Kuwait’s College of Islamic Sharia. “The fatwa against Barbie commences immediately.” That seems a little extreme. It’s not the first time, of course, the gulf has banned Western products. Last year Saudi Arabia and Iran barred satellite dishes–for the sinful images they import. Thirty years ago Saudi Arabia’s senior religious authority declared the earth was flat and outlawed globes. (Newsweek, April 24, 1995, p. 6.) It is very difficult for us to relate to such a religion. And yet, relate to it we must. For, if we do not, if we hate people simply because of their religion, we become exactly like the people who hate us so much. If we return evil for evil, what separates us from sinners? asks Jesus. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) “Juda Ben Hur, you have become a Massala.” Some of you will remember an epic Hollywood motion picture titled Ben Hur, starring Charlton Heston. You may remember it for the exciting chariot race at the end. At the time Ben Hur was the most expensive Hollywood movie ever made. In the movie, based on a Lew Wallace book, an old friend named Massala has become Juda Ben Hur’s enemy. Because of Massala’s evil doing, Ben Hur is captured and forced into service down in the galley of a slave ship. Meanwhile, his mother and sister are sent off to prison. Ben Hur loses contact with them and later is told that they are dead. Juda Ben Hur, returns to Israel intent on one thing–revenge. Because of Massala, he has lost everything. And now he lives for one thing, to avenge himself upon Massala. This passion consumes Ben Hur to such an extent that his sweetheart, Esther, looking into his tortured eyes exclaims, “Juda Ben Hur, you have become a Massala.” That’s what hatred does to us. It is impossible to have the Spirit of Christ within us and at the same time to have a spirit of hatred for any other human being. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) “We must realize that we are all family.” TV news reporter Peter Arnett was visiting the West Bank in Israel when a bomb exploded in the middle of town. He was surrounded by anguished screams and clouds of smoke. A man holding an injured girl ran up to Peter and asked for a ride to a hospital. As they sped through the streets, the man nursed the bloody girl in the backseat. The doctors did everything to save the girl’s life, but to no avail. Peter turned to comfort the man on the loss of his child, but the man interrupted him. She wasn’t his child, he said. She was a Palestinian. He was Israeli. He found her lying in the street and decided to help. “Mister,” he said through his tears, “there must come a time when we realize that we are all family.” (Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pp. 120-121.) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) The Bishop’s silver candlesticks: One of the most successful musicals of the past forty years has been Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Les Miserables, based on the book of the same name by Victor Hugo. The main character of Les Miserables is Jean Valjean. Orphaned as a boy, Valjean reaches his teens only to take on the responsibility of caring for his widowed sister and her seven children. All his work couldn’t pull his sister and her family out of poverty, and so one day a desperate Valjean steals a loaf of bread from a baker’s shop, to keep the children from starving. He is soon arrested and thrown in jail, where his young heart becomes hardened with anger and hatred. After spending half his life in prison, Valjean is released to a world that doesn’t want him. His criminal past causes him to be rejected and ostracized everywhere he goes. Finally, he stumbles on the house of a kindly Bishop. The Bishop treats Valjean with kindness, feeding him and allowing him to spend the night at his house. That night, Valjean is restless, still battling the anger and bitterness in his heart. He leaves the house that night, stealing all the bishop’s fine silver utensils. The next day, soldiers come to the bishop’s house with Valjean in tow. They have found the silver, and are ready to throw him in jail. But the bishop greets Valjean with gladness and insists that he freely gave him the silver. The soldiers release their trembling prisoner and leave. Valjean, in disbelief, accepts the gift of the silver from the bishop. He cannot understand why this man would tell a lie to save someone like himself. His answer comes when the kindly bishop announces, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to the evil, but to good. I have bought your soul for you. I withdrew it from black thoughts and the spirit of hate, and gave it to God.” And Jean Valjean leaves the bishop’s house a changed man changed by a man who treated him with favor. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
10) “I have no choice but to love and forgive the man who murdered my mother.” A few years ago the small town of Palm Bay, Florida, experienced a deep community trauma. A crazed alcoholic filled his pockets with high-powered ammunition. Then, taking a semiautomatic rifle, he walked into a crowded shopping center and started killing people at random. By the time he was finally chased into a grocery store (where he held a young woman hostage for several hours before the police persuaded him to give up), he had killed six people and wounded a dozen more some seriously. Emotions ran high. One of the ladies killed was a sixty-eight-year-old saint who worked in a Church nursery. People were confused. What role did justice play in this kind of situation? Forgiveness? Each person had to arrive at his own conclusion. But Sandy Thompson, the daughter of the slain woman, made a deliberate decision not to hate. “If I hate him,” she told her pastor, “I am also a murderer.” She said, “Jesus said, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.’ (Matt. 5:21-22). He also said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ (Matt. 5:43-44) Therefore,” said Sandy Thompson, “I have no choice but to love and forgive the man who murdered my mother.” [Jamie Buckingham, Parables (Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing, 1991), p. 39.] (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) “We are not advocating violence. We must love our enemies.” On January 30, 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr. came home from a meeting to find his home had been bombed while his wife and children were inside. Crowds full of anger swarmed in the front yard. After a while, Dr. King came out to address the crowd. This is what he said: “We are not advocating violence. We must love our enemies. What we are doing is just, and God will be with us.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
12) “We shall pray for who have perhaps already raised their hands to kill us.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer—World War II—fighting Hitler, decided to leave the safety of this country and to go back to Germany and lead a Church in the resistance movement against the Nazi regime. It cost him his life. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in that great book The Cost of Discipleship, “We are approaching an age of widespread persecution. Our adversaries seek to root out the Christian Church because they cannot live side by side with us. So what shall we do? We shall pray. It will be a prayer of earnest love for those who stand around and gaze at us with eyes aflame with hatred, and who have perhaps already raised their hands to kill us.” What will we do? We can pray. Why not? Why not a better way of life? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
13) “Blood never loses its color.” On Dec. 24, 1994, a young Albanian man by the name of Isaj was murdered. The police didn’t investigate the crime, even though they knew who the killer was: Isaj’s close friend, Rasim. Why didn’t the police arrest Rasim? Because it was a revenge killing, and revenge killings are part of the basic moral code in Albania. The basic moral code of Albania comes from the Kanun, a centuries-old book of folk laws. The Kanun calls for brutal revenge if a man has been injured or his honor has been insulted. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not options. If a man refuses to kill another man in a blood feud, then he loses all honor in Albanian society. A quote from the Kanun reads, “Blood never loses its color.” Revenge is natural; love is Christ like. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) “Fratres pontifices,” the bridge-building brothers. In A.D. 1191, Pope Clement III approved a new guild. Its members included nobles, clergy, and artisans. The work of the guild consisted of clearing dangerous roads for pilgrims and building bridges over rivers and chasms. Members of the guild wore clothing that carried a picture of two things: a cross and a bridge. The guild was called “fratres pontifices,” the bridge-building brothers. And that is who we who follow Jesus are called to be. An Episcopal priest, Dr. Joseph Fort Newton, once commented: “People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.” [Edward Chinn, Wonder of Words (Lima, Ohio: C.S.S. Publishing Co., Inc., 1987), p. 22.[ (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) “But, I have many bridges to build.” Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years in farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence. One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man With a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?” “Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor, in fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now it is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence–an 8-foot fence so I won’t need to see his place anymore. Cool him down anyhow.” The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.” The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge, a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other. A fine piece of work–handrails and all–and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.” The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge and then they met in the middle, took each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder, “No wait, stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother. “I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but, I have many bridges to build.” (Source: www.swanlake.twoffice.com via http://www.witandwisdom.org ) Christ, of course, is the ultimate bridge builder. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) In “The Godfather II,” Michael Corleone preaches the following principle: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer yet.” Powerful information is wrapped up in criticism. You will always learn more from your enemies than from your friends. Enemies can provide a largely untapped source of truth; they give us tips, either about us or (if the critique is off-base) about those who criticize us. Either way we receive valuable information. Proverbs 23:12 can be translated as: “Don’t refuse to accept criticism; get all the help you can.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) In search of mother’s murderer: A number of years ago, The New York Times Magazine told the story of Nicholas Gage and his mother Eleni. Eleni was a Greek peasant who smuggled her son out of the village before he could be “re-educated” by the Communist party. As a result, she was tortured and murdered on August 28, 1948. Thirty-two years later, her son quit his job as a reporter for the New York Times. He devoted his time and money to finding his mother’s killer. He sifted through government cover-ups and false leads. Eventually he found the person who ordered Eleni’s death. His name was Katis. In a moving account, he tells of going up the path to a seaside cottage, where he sees Katis, fast asleep. He stood and looked at the man who had killed his mother. But as he pondered his revenge, Gage remembered how his mother did not spend the last moments cursing her tormentors; rather, she faced death with courage because she had done her duty to those she loved. “I could have killed Katis,” he confessed. “It would have given me relief from the pain that had filled me for so many years. But as much as I want that satisfaction, I have learned that I can’t do it. My mother’s love, the primary impulse of her life, still binds us together, often surrounding me like a tangible presence. Summoning the hate to kill my enemy would have severed that bridge connecting us. It would have destroyed the part of me that is most like my mother.” (New York Times Magazine 3 April 1983: 20.) Gage prowled all over Greece, looking to treat somebody else as he felt his mother had been treated. He spent his money trying to give the enemy a taste of his own medicine. Instead he was interrupted by love, a mother’s love that made sacrifices for him, a love that was not withheld even in the face of certain death, a love like the love of Christ on the cross. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) “Remember Mr. Denny had brain damage …” Do you remember Reginald Denny who was beaten senseless, almost to death, in Los Angeles? The attack on Reginald Denny was an incident in the 1993 Los Angeles riots in which Reginald Denny, a white construction truck driver, was beaten nearly to death by a group of black assailants who came to be known as the “L.A. Four”. We remember the trial, the riots, and the controversy. But do you remember the fact that in the courtroom he was with the families of those who had beaten him? He had gathered together with them in their homes and had gotten to know them because he realized the only hope for the world was for us to forgive our aggressors. Outside the courtroom, after Denny pronounced forgiveness on those who harmed him, one newspaper man simply said, “Remember Mr. Denny had brain damage …” So, we call someone brain-damaged who simply follows the command to love our enemies! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_on_Reginald_Denny). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) “I threw the brick because no one else would stop!” A number of years back, a young and very successful executive was travelling down a suburban street in his brand-new black jaguar. Suddenly a brick was thrown from the sidewalk, thumping into the side of the car. Brakes slammed! Gears ground into reverse, and tires madly spun the Jaguar back to the spot from where the brick had been thrown. The driver jumped out, grabbed the kid who had thrown the brick and pushed him up against a parked car. “What was that all about?!” he screamed. “That’s my new Jag, that brick you threw is gonna cost you a lot of money!” “Please, mister, please …. I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do!” pleaded the youngster. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop!” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother, mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.” The mood was transformed in a moment as the young executive realized what had occurred. He lifted the young man into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts. He then watched as the younger brother pushed him down the sidewalk toward their home Unfortunately, that story is all too common. Without knowing all the facts, we all make judgments about people all the time. And what is really unfortunate, is that judgments like that are all too common in the church. The Christian churches have a bad reputation as a bunch of judgmental hypocrites, don’t we? (Rev. Don Jaques). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) “He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot.” Late one summer evening a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night service station to get some food. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists – of the Hell’s Angels type – decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his chips, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it. How would you respond? Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his bill and walked to the front of the restaurant, paid his bill and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the cash register and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night. When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, “Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?” She replied, “I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot.” You laugh at that because that is what we’d like to do to those who make life difficult for us. When someone does something to us, our first instinct is to get back at them! Our first instinct is to make them pay and to hurt as much as they hurt us. But that is not what Jesus would have us do. In Luke 6, Jesus gives us a different response to have. What would Jesus have us do to our enemies? He tells us we are to LOVE THEM. (Rev. David Elvery). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)*****