Challenged to love even the unlovable

Challenged to love even the unlovable

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, (Luke 6:27-38)
February 24, 2019

By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB

JESUS does not seem tired of shocking his disciples. He has already jolted them with the “beatification” of the poor, the hungry, the despised and the persecuted, and the four “woes” addressed to the rich, the well-fed, the satisfied and those who enjoy the favor of the people. Now his shocking power reaches its climax, as he demands that his disciples love their enemies and do good to those who hate them.

This injunction is far more demanding than the well-established commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself. No leader has ever asked so much of his followers. Jesus did. And his whole life (and not just his praying for those who were insulting him on Calvary) was a constant living out of the command to love one’s enemies and do good to them for, as the Son of God, he had become a human being exactly to give his life for his very enemies—all sinners!

But now this command to love one’s enemies is addressed by him to frail human beings who already find it hard to constantly love even their own relatives and friends! . . . Hence the question: How can Jesus make such a demand? And the simple answer is: Because the command to love one’s neighbor includes also one’s enemies. Every human being, in fact, and not just my friends, or the members of my club, or my team or my race . . . , is my “neighbor.” We are expected to love all human beings, for they are all children of God and our brothers or sisters in Christ.

“Do to others what you would have them do to you,” continues Jesus in his “Sermon on the Plain” thereby proclaiming the “Golden Rule” which covers all aspects of our relationship with our neighbor. (See Lk 6:31.) And since everybody wants to be treated with respect, honor, care, understanding, and love, the conclusion is that we should treat everybody—including those who have deliberately hurt us—not the way they treat us, but the way we would like to be treated.

This, as well all know very well, is not a spontaneous reaction. Instinctively, when we have been hurt, we tend to retaliate and get even, or at least to withhold from those who have offended us those signs of love that we used to have for them. If we do not go to war, the least we are tempted to do is “to sever our diplomatic ties,” and learn to live as if that person did not exist.

Jesus is not satisfied with our refraining from belligerent actions, for a “cold treatment” fails to meet the demands of love. “Do good to those who hate you,” he presses us. “Bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.” Herein is the challenge to be heroic by loving in a practical manner even the “unlovable.”

This is the challenge to follow in the footsteps of our Model, Jesus himself, “the New Man” and “the life-giving spirit.” (See today’s Second Reading.) Being new creatures in him, we must love the way he did. In so doing, we will be learning to live and love in a God-like manner, for our common Father is always compassionate and continues to love even those who offend and reject Him. (See v. 35.)

This is a tall order, indeed, but if we really want to go to heaven, we do not have any alternative, for “the measure with which we measure,” says Jesus, “will in return be measured out to us.” (See today’s Gospel, v. 38.)