The challenge to love without borders
7th Sunday of Year A (Matt 5:38-48)
February 19, 2017
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
THE most destructive forces in the world are not nuclear weapons, earthquakes, and other death-sowing disasters. The most destructive force is hatred. This dreadful power disfigures and shatters the heart of man and society. Hatred is man’s greatest enemy, the anti-life force par excellence.
Only one force can oppose and overcome hatred and make up for its deadly effects: LOVE. Love is life. It has the power to renew the heart of man . . . to renew the face of the earth.
Love is God’s “invention.” It is God’s very life, for “God is Love” (1 Jn 4:8). Man and his world were brought into existence by Love. Love is what maintains them and guides them to their final “destination”—heaven.
Love is the heart of the world; the heart of whatever is beautiful, worthy and uplifting. Love has many faces, many “family names.” Depending on the circumstances and the needs of our “neighbor,” love becomes appreciation, acceptance, encouragement, self-forgetfulness, offering or accepting a gift, patient waiting or immediate action, a word of correction or quiet listening, a radiant smile or an intent look, timely help, and forgiveness . . . The actions performed may be the most diverse, but one is their root, the fundamental attitude that prompts them all: LOVE.
But in this world of ours, poisoned by sin and crippled by moral weakness, it is not easy to love everybody and at all times. We need a teacher and one who gives us the strength we need to put into practice what we have learned.
Jesus is that teacher. We need one to show us in practice how to love. God the Father, of course, is our first and most perfect model, for He created all things out of love and keeps them in existence out of love, as He “makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. But among all the innumerable “signs” of His love, none can equal the gift of His eternal Son, for “God so love the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
And Jesus, as “the human face of God” or “love made flesh” is not only the most perfect manifestation of God’s love for us, but also our most perfect human model of how we should love both God and neighbor. For it was out of love for the Father that the man Jesus lived and suffered to the outmost. At the same time, it was out of love for mankind that he spent his whole life and endured such a terrible death in order that all might have life and have it to the full. (See Jn 10:10.)
But Jesus, is not just the “model” we have to look up to and imitate. He is also the source of the energy and strength that we need to do so, especially when loving becomes a hard test. Jesus is the one who infuses in us the strength that we need in order to love even our enemies and executioners, if it should happen, to the very end.
Among the many things that matter in life, one tops them all: LOVE. Of all the virtues we can practice, “there are three that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is LOVE” (1 Cor 13:13).