DAILY GOSPEL COMMENTARY: “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES”
Gospel of Tuesday, 11th week of Ordinary Time
Love your enemies
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, St. Matthew (with permission)
- 43 The first part of this verse — “You shall love your neighbour” — is to be found in Leviticus 19:18. The second part — “hate your enemy” — is not to be found in the Law of Moses.
- However, Jesus’ words refer to a widespread rabbinical interpretation which understood “neighbours” as meaning “Israelites”.
- Our Lord corrects this misinterpretation of the Law: for him everyone is our neighbour (cf. the parable of the Good Samaritan in Lk 10:25-37).
- 43-47 This passage sums up the teaching which precedes it. Our Lord goes as far as to say that a Christian has no personal enemies. His only enemy is evil as such — sin — but not the sinner.
- Jesus himself put this into practice with those who crucified him, and he continues to act in the same way towards sinners who rebel against him and despise him.
- Consequently, the saints have always followed his example — like St Stephen, the first martyr, who prayed for those who were putting him to death.
- This is the apex of Christian perfection — to love, and pray for, even those who persecute us and calumniate us. It is the distinguishing mark of the children of God.
- 46 “Tax collectors”: the Roman Empire had no officials of its own for the collection of taxes: in each country it used local people for this purpose.
- These were free to engage agents (hence we find references to “chief tax collectors”: cf. Lk 19:2). The global amount of tax for each region was specified by the Roman authorities; the tax collectors levied more than this amount, keeping the surplus for themselves: this led them to act rather arbitrarily, which was why the people hated them. In the case of the Jews, insult was added to injury by the fact that the chosen people were being exploited by Gentiles.
- 48 Verse 48 is, in a sense, a summary of the teaching in this entire chapter, including the Beatitudes.
- Strictly speaking, it is quite impossible for a created being to be as perfect as God.
- What our Lord means here is that God’s own perfection should be the model which every faithful Christian tries to follow, even though he realizes that there is an infinite distance between himself and his Creator.
- However, this does not reduce the force of this commandment; it sheds more light on it. It is a difficult commandment to live up to, but against this we must take account of the enormous help grace gives us to go as far as to tend towards divine perfection.
- Certainly, the perfection which we should imitate does not refer to the power and wisdom of God, which are totally beyond our scope: here the context seems to refer primarily to love and mercy. Along the same lines, St Luke quotes these words of our Lord: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36; cf. note on Luke 6:20-49).
- Clearly, the “universal call to holiness” is not a recommendation, but a commandment, of Jesus Christ.
- “Your duty is to sanctify yourself. Yes, even you. Who thinks that this task is only for priests and religious?
- “To everyone, without exception, our Lord said: ‘Be ye perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect’” (J. Escrivá, The Way, 291).
- This teaching is sanctioned by chapter 5 of Vatican II’s Constitution Lumen gentium, where it says (40): “The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of which he is the author and maker) to each and every one of his disciples without distinction: ‘You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ … It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society”.
VIDEO COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S GOSPEL
TOPIC: CAN YOU EVER LOVE YOUR ENEMIES AND PRAY FOR THEM?
In today’s gospel reading, the last of six examples is enunciated by Jesus on how the Mosaic Law can be observed at a higher and more meaningful level.Jesus uses the Leviticus 19:18 as reference. “Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself.” He confuses and disturbs the people – and us – by telling us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. That is a tough thing to do, isn’t it? Only a perfect person can do that.
TOPIC 2: Can you love your enemies and forgive them?
In today’s gospel, the last line reads, “be perfect as your father is perfect.” It led me to think. Can I be perfect? Only God is perfect. But Jesus exhorts us to perfection. So it must be possible. And if I go back to the previous lines, it is very clear what he was referring to as a way for us to perfection. And that is — love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
When you pray for your enemies and for their well-being, your attitude towards them changes from one of anger, bitterness and resentment, to one of compassion. And then the chances of FORGIVENESS becomes 100%. Both ways. To be a forgiver and to ask for forgiveness is a blessing to us more than to the other person who is the subject of forgiveness.
Check out the stories of Jeffrey Dahmer, Corrie Ten Boom, a 6-year old boy who refuses to pray for his brother, a girl who was sick with anemia, and Janet Bly’s “No Digging Allowed” sign in the video.
One of the benefits of forgiveness is the improvement of one’s health. According to the Mayo Clinic, the medical research community is discovering many practical benefits of forgiveness and one of them is physical healing.
Forgiveness is never easy. But if you allow the Holy Spirit to give you that grace to forgive, you will have a life of good health and a peace that cannot be measured by any achievement, fame or money. It also assures you of God’s immense pleasure to welcome you with open arms someday into His heavenly kingdom because you have followed His two greatest commandments — one of them to love your neighbor as yourself.
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