A HOMILY FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME –CYCLE “A” – 2/23/14 – SMG
Pax et Bonum!
Late one night, this truck driver pulled into a small truck stop to get a little something to eat. As he was eating, three nasty-looking motorcyclists came into the same place looking for trouble. They noisily strutted in and made their way to the counter. For some unknown reason, they gravitated toward the truck driver. One poured salt on his head, another knocked his pie on the floor, and the third managed to knock the trucker’s coffee off the counter, partially into the man’s lap. The truck driver got up, said nothing, paid his bill, and made his exit. “That Dude sure wasn’t much of a fighter” sneered one of the motorcycle gang members. The waitress peered out the window onto the dark parking lot outside and answered, “He’s not much of a driver either. He just ran over three motorcycles!”
Don’t you love that story? It gives such great joy to our hearts to see nasty people get paid back for their nastiness! There’s a certain justice when bullies, or criminals, or mean or rude people get paid back for their behavior. It makes us very naturally just want to stand up and applaud. Perhaps we hope that it teaches them a lesson, and that they will change their ways next time. In a perfect world, every bully, and every rude person, and every criminal would get to feel the pain, the loss, the humiliation that they cause others. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”, is the law of talion. It is justice. It is fair. It is right! It’s just NOT what Jesus calls us to today.
My brothers and sisters, we come to Mass today and we get some of Jesus’ most radical teachings on love. Just like last week, Jesus is asking us to move beyond what is just, and fair, and right. Jesus is calling us to unconditional love. And so, Jesus teaches us today that we don’t fight back, we don’t respond to harsh words with more harsh words, and we don’t run over motorcycles when we get mad. We turn the other cheek. This is a most challenging teaching! Does Jesus really expect us to behave this way even when we are the one being attacked? Yes, He does! He expects us to do it because He Himself did it in Jerusalem before He died. Doesn’t that go against every inclination that we have in our bodies, minds, and souls? And Yes, it is NOT natural. It is SUPERnatural! And this kind of love and forgiveness and strength is only going to come from God. It is probably NOT ever going to be our first inclination to turn the other cheek and be ready to take even more abuse. But Jesus is promising us that it is a better way! Jesus wants us to remember that it is always so much better to let love guide us rather than vengeance. Vengeance can be the worst kind of evil. It will eat you up. Vengeance attacks good people and makes them hate. To continue to seek vengeance makes us the victim of the bully, the criminal, or the rude person all over again, and again, and again. At some point we need to swallow our pride and move on. God sees what goes on. And nobody escapes God’s justice.
The other equally as radical part of this Gospel that we hear today is that we are to love our enemies. And one of the most important parts of this for us to hear today is that “pray for those who persecute you” part. Once again, we might ask ourselves, does Jesus really want me to love even my worst enemies? And the answer is Yes! How in the world can we do that? Prayer is an essential part of it. Prayer does amazing things. Prayer changes us first and foremost. Every time that we pray, we give God the chance to change our hearts. And, there are some people that God alone can change their hearts. Remember St. Paul and St. Augustine? What if God took your worst enemy and so changed their hearts and their lives, that they became your best friend? With God, it could happen! All things are possible with God. And so the very best thing that we can do for our enemies is to pray for them! As people of Faith, why isn’t that our first inclination? Pray for those who hate us, or persecute us, or do bad things to us. We can never underestimate the awesome power of prayer. Prayer can change everything!
Anybody can get mad. Anybody can hold a grudge. Anybody can get even. It is a great grace from God to be strong enough NOT to do those things. Let us follow Christ! Even when He calls us to a radical love!
+ May God bless us today, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!