Thursday, September 10, 2009

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

In today’s First Reading (Colossians 3:12-27), Paul reminds the Christians of Colossae that they belong to God, because of Christ. This is why they should behave as God’s chosen people, and should be kind, compassionate, gentle and patient with one another, and practice humility with regard to themselves. Then Paul changes his focus from positive to negative. There are times when Christians do not behave as they should toward one another, and they quarrel and fight. Paul urges them to be patient with other people’s faults. If a member of the community has a grievance against another, the aggrieved person should act with forbearance and forgiveness toward the offender. The model in Christ himself: Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.

The Christians at Colossae are urged to “put on” the virtues than he has enumerated as if they were clothing, and over them all, to put on love, as a cloak or coat. Then the peace of Christ will rule their hearts, that peace to which the followers of Christ have been called, as members of His mystical body.

Finally, Paul reminds the Colossians to be thankful to God, and to allow the word of Christ to dwell within them fully. Divine wisdom will allow them to teach one another, to admonish one another lovingly, to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in gratitude to God for his grace. In brief, he concludes, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Today’s gospel (Luke 6:27-38), follows the same theme:

Jesus speaks his disciples: “If you are willing to listen, I tell you to love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who harm you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. If someone wants your coat, offer your shirt as well. Give to anyone who asks for alms. When something is taken from you don’t try to get it back. In brief: Do unto others and you would have them do unto you.”

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do as much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners lend to other sinners for a full return.

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured out into your lap. For the measure you measure out will be measured back to you."

This gospel is the blueprint of the life of a Christian. The message of Jesus to his disciples is not one of naïve idealism. It is realistic and practical. On the other hand, living a Christian life is more easily said than done. But, it can’t be done at all if we keep our focus on our bruises and our wounds, and on those who have inflicted them, but never on ourselves. We need to recognize and admit to the deadly devices that are lodged in our hearts and minds, and allow them to be defused by God’s grace, lest they explode and cause irreparable damage to our relationship with God and his other children, our sisters and brothers in Christ.

Jesus did not say, “Conquer your enemies, since they are God’s enemies.” Instead, he said, “Do not judge, lest you be judged”, and “Forgive your enemies, as you would yourself be forgiven”. Commenting on this, Saint Augustine wrote, “If we don’t do this, we don’t know God at all. ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love’ (1 John 4:8). Jesus said that the way to God is like passing through the eye of a needle. Scripture scholars tell us that Jesus was not referring to the sort of needle used by a tailor or a seamstress, but of a very narrow gate in the walls of the Holy City, Jerusalem. “Enter through the narrow gate”, Jesus says in Luke 13:24. “There is something holding us back, which must be loosed so that our sight may break through to the light,” wrote St. Augustine.

It is not our enemies who hold us back, but ourselves, and for as long as we continue to blame our enemies, we will never find the way, or the truth, or the light.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I have spent much of my lifetime working with enemies (i.e. people from cultures that are at war, cold or hot, with the USA -- Russians, East Europeans, Arabs/Muslims). What happens when you love them is that they become friends! Too bad our governments cannot learn to do the same. We might have a world without war!