Sunday, February 19, 2017

Feb. 19, 2017: 7th Sunday Ordinary Time A

Click to hear Audio Homily
Many of us have been to funerals where a family member gives a eulogy of the deceased person’s upbringing, education, work, hobbies, and relationship. What impresses me the most is whenever the family member says, “there was not a mean bone in his body; he always treated everyone with kindness," or "she had no enemies; she loved everyone as a friend." Why is this more impressive than the wealth the person accumulated, the influential role he played in the organizations, or the honor he gained from others? Clearly the deceased person understood Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the merciful; for they will be shown mercy.” Our Lord told us that we are blessed or happy when we respond to evil in the world, to injury inflicted on them, to other people’s needs with radical generosity; not with vengeance, not with retaliation, nor with violence, but with generosity, that is mercy. St. Paul puts it in another way, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In being merciful, we are imaging God whose greatest attribute is mercy.

Jesus calls us to, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In saying this he calls us to, “Love your enemies and pray for those persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Which is easier, to be friendly to those who are good to us, or to be kind to those who mistreat us, who take us for granted, or those who hate us? When you think about it, often times the “enemies” are not the ones who live in far away places, but they are our spouse, our siblings, our children, or our dear friends who betrayed our trust or hurt us deeply. When Jesus said, “love your enemies,” he used the word for ‘love’ that means ‘choosing or willing the good for another.’ In other words, Jesus’ command to ‘love’ is not an emotion; rather, it is an act of will. Then what are we to do when we are so angry or resentful of those who hurt us or betrayed us?

Jesus commands us to “pray for those who persecute you.” No matter what you feel about someone who hurt you, if you pray for him, if you ask the Lord to bless him and give good things to him, then that is an act of love. To pray for someone else is to use your precious time for the benefit and good of another person. Often times we confuse love and like; we confuse an act of will and emotion. To love your enemy does not mean that you have to have feelings for your enemy. We are called to will the good to that enemy,especially, by praying and interceding for them and by offering penance and sacrifices for them. In doing so Jesus says, “you’ll be like the Father in heaven…[who] makes the sun shine on the evil and the good.”

In less than 10 days we begin Lent. Let us ponder in what ways we can use the 40 days of Lent as acts of love for others, especially those we consider our enemy.

(Photo: Bishop Stanley Ott visiting a death row inmate at Angola Prison)