JUNE 15. Ord. Time. Wk 11. Tue. Mt. 5. 43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
Everybody in Christ’s time was aware “Love” involved care and concern of one’s neighbour, as this teaching had been handed down to God’s people by Moses, who had carved it in rock after speaking with God on a mountain.
But what Jesus did in today’s reading, from his sermon on another mountain, was to lift this commandment to a whole new level.
It was not just your neighbour that God’s people had to love; - but now they were being told specifically they had to love their enemies; - people who had offended them or committed evil against them.
Even today we find it hard to fathom this commandment; - but the reason is it is not easy to ‘love’; - as self-sacrifice is an inherent component.
And while self-sacrifice might be tolerated for a good friend, it is a totally different situation to ask for self-sacrifice for an enemy, or someone who has harmed you?
St Paul dealt very concisely with this issue when he wrote; - “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this; - that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!’
And here it is interesting to note that Christ’s command; - to love one’s enemies; - was given at the start of his public life; - while St Paul’s observation was made after Christ’s Death and Resurrection.
So after giving this commandment to his followers, Christ went on to “practice what he preached” in that he gave his life on a Cross; - not for saints or good people, but specifically for sinners; - those who had offended God.
“I came, not to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners!”
So, in the sermon on the mount, where Christ commanded us to love our enemies, what he was really doing was announcing, in advance, what he himself had been sent by the Father to do; - to give his life on a Cross for sinners!
It follows logically that Christians; - the “the followers of Christ”; - are called to Imitate their teacher and redeemer, by “loving’ their enemies”?
How easily we overlook the fact Christ died on a Cross so as to make reparation for our sins?
Gospel Acclamation John13:34
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.