Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher offers us Gospel Reflections for the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time. The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection February 20 2022. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
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 also 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.”
In last week’s gospel, Jesus inverted the expected ways of looking at the world. The text described Jesus’ first teaching to the newly named twelve. While the other disciples and a great crowd were present, Jesus addressed the twelve. He gave them instructions as to what they could expect. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man… Woe to you when all speak well of you for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way (Luke 6:23 & 26).”
In this week’s gospel, Jesus continues his instruction with the same starkness that characterized last week’s text. If the new disciples adopt the radically different view of the world described in the blessings and woes of last week, the way that they treat people will be radically different from the rest of the society of the day.
Jesus’ expectation is that his disciples love even their enemies. This is radically different from the Pharisees of the day who believed the path to holiness was found in separating that which was unclean from that which was ritually clean, holy, and of God. Jesus says it four ways in the first two verses of this reading: love (verse 27), do good to (verse 27), bless (verse 28), and pray for (verse 28). The disciples are not to react to the way they are being treated with any sense of retaliation that was normative at the time. Jesus is asking them to even move past a neutral non-response to harsh treatment, to positively doing good for, blessing, and praying for one’s enemies. Jesus is asking them to treat others as God does, God who sends the sun to shine on the good and the bad. “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 (Matthew 5:44-45).” If being like God is not sufficient enough motivation, they are reminded in the last two verses that the way that they treat others is the way they can expect God will treat them.
- When you think of “enemy,” what other words might be helpful here? (i.e. opponent, critic…)
- When you think about enemies, as in your personal enemies, who or what comes to mind?
- Who might consider you an enemy?
- Who have been the people that treated you cruelly, or poorly?
- When you hear Jesus’ exhortation to love your enemies, what goes on in your insides?
- Do you know people who have worked to forgive significant offenses of another?
- Who are the people who have taken steps toward loving their enemies in history, in the church, and in your own life?
- What steps have you taken in your life to love those who are difficult, or who have offended you?
- When you reflect on asking God to forgive you as you have forgiven, and God asks you to forgive others as God has forgiven you, what arises within you?
- Can you take some time to talk honestly about your own experience of loving those who are difficult to love, your desire to know that you have been forgiven by God, or some other issue that arose within you from this text?