Sunday, February 20, 2022: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel – Luke 6:27-38
Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?
“Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.
“But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Jesus doesn’t use the Mary Poppins approach. “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”
Nope – no sugar coating for Jesus. This Sunday’s gospel is proof positive of that. Even so and maybe because I’ve heard and read it so many times I found myself reading these “hard saying” of Jesus like I’d read an editorial in the newspaper. I say to myself, “Well, that’s interesting but unlikely that anyone really lives like that.” Then I turn the page, probably to the comics. I may remember what I read long enough to say to someone, “Did you read the editorial in today’s paper?” A superficial response and no reflection.
How do I reflect on this difficult Gospel in a way that helps me pay more attention to the challenge, to the truth Jesus conveys? Out of nowhere (maybe the Holy Spirit) came this idea. What if I name the person I find most difficult to like, much less respect, much less love? What if I call to mind the grudges I hold against her/him? What if I remember all the “reasons” why it’s OK that I don’t want to like much less love the person? Then, what if I fill that person’s name as I go down the list of the actions Jesus specifies? Here’s how I prayed the gospel. As I began I asked the Holy Spirit to keep me honest.
To you who hear, I say:
Do good to (name)
Pray for (name) whom you believe has mistreated you; cursed you; treated you harshly.
Turn the other cheek when (name) strikes you with unkind words or actions.
Give whatever (name) asks of you and don’t demand anything in return.
Stop judging (name) and you will not be judged.
Hardest for all to me turned out to be this one.
Forgive (name) and you will be forgiven.
I found this a very uncomfortable, humbling, overwhelmingly difficult prayer. It got my attention though. More than an editorial ever has. I prayed the gospel this way a day ago. Precious few hours have passed when I didn’t remember the person and my discomfort. I should have been ready for a challenge when I read the opening words of this gospel reading. Jesus says to the crowd, “To you who hear I say …”
And say it Jesus does. Jesus minces no words about following his way. He certainly doesn’t sugar coat it.
Perhaps you’d like to use the statements above with the name of your choosing and see where it goes. Perhaps you’d like to ask the Holy Spirit for whatever gift you need to open your heart to what may come from your prayer.