Thursday, August 9, 2012

A fleeting thought

During His Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew's Gospel, Jesus says, "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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" (Matt 5:43-46- ESV)

It seems to me that the present moment we are living provides us with a golden opportunity to lovingly obey our Lord, who never forces our hand, but always leaves it up to us. As Christians, loving those who revile, belittle, deliberately misunderstand, and who accuse us of hate for being faithful to Christ, many of whom are even Catholic, does not mean giving up what we believe, or calling evil good, or good evil. It does help us to see that the kingdom of God will not be ushered in through power and it certainly will not be imposed by violence, but only through love.

We need to live what we believe because we know it is the path to happiness and fulfillment. The only way to "know" this is by verifying it through experience. All the while we need to bless those who curse us, not in some moralistically spiteful way, like killing someone with kindness even as we grit our teeth, but truly from our hearts, hoping, but not expecting that they respond in like manner.

In a similar vein, St. Paul writes, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them... Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Rom. 12:14.17-21 ESV)

A recent concrete example of what I am urging can be found in an interview with Fr. Victor Potapov, an Orthodox priest, which was posted on Mystagogy. In the interview he discusses the sacrilege committed in Moscow by the female punk band, Pussy Riot, as well as same-sex marriage. He shows simply and plainly what it means to speak the truth in love, urging us, "We must be merciful, and not to forget the teaching of Christ."

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