Reflection for Sunday – February 19, 2023
Readings: Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3: 16-23; Matthew 5: 38-48
Preacher: M. Lourdes Perez-Albuerne
“Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” What a great challenge! It seems impossible to rise to Jesus’ challenge. But Jesus lays a very concrete way to go about living this way.
Most of us live by a completely opposite principle: “Love your friend and hate your enemies.” Jesus asks more of us, “I say to you love your enemies, do good to them and pray for those who persecute and slander you.” We need to make sure that we understand and implement what Jesus requires of us in order to be brothers and sisters to Jesus. As a matter of fact, this principle is so important that theologians consider it the way to be Christian.
Now let us be clear, when Jesus calls for loving our enemy, He is not talking of the feeling of intimacy we share with friends and family, but a relationship with our enemy that is really human where we respect the enemy and relate to him or her in a positive way. Jesus believes that, when love is the basis of all relations and activities, a person relates to other persons, friend or foe, this way. It demands that we discover and relate to each person with respect for their human dignity, even when we perceive his or her words or actions as wrong or hurtful. Our attitude toward that person should be one of real concern for their well-being.
Jesus is convinced that we do not destroy evil or win confrontations when we try to get even with the enemy or use their weapons or actions. We should not use words or actions as weapons to escalate the conflict. Loving an enemy does not in any way mean that we condone their behavior or words. Our behavior cannot engender hate towards them or toward those who instigate or support their actions. Jesus is absolutely convinced that evil cannot be conquered by evil.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said the “ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.” When Jesus asks us to love our neighbor, He also clearly doesn’t mean that we should condone or ignore the injustices that exist in our society. We should not feel comfortable when unjust laws or activities create an inhuman way of living. We have to actively oppose financial activities or laws that make the poor go poorer, or punish persons different from what society considers the norm, be they cultural differences, color of their skin or immigration status.
We know that we lack the ability to do all Jesus asks of us on our own, but Jesus promised that He would be always with us and left His love, the Holy Spirit, with us. The experience of God’s love and compassion towards us leads us to love our fellow human beings the same way. We try to be perfect as our God is perfect, not by considering this as an impossible challenge, but by letting God’s love transform us into loving our enemies, forgiving those who hurt us and praying for those who persecute us. God created us in love to be loving.