Every time I read chapter five of Matthew’s gospel, I feel more and more challenged! The Beatitudes are enough but then there are so many other things added on…. One could spend a lifetime simply in that one chapter! Just take one little section like: I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…. Yikes! I try but have been very short of success in that endeavor, especially as that statement is followed up with questions like: If you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Difficult questions…challenging statements…. Love can certainly get complicated if your desire is to listen to the way of the disciples…. Are you still willing to go along?
There’s a lot to ponder in the lectionary readings for today: (Luke 6: 27-38). It’s all about love but because Jesus was speaking to his disciples rather than a large crowd the message was not flowery or sweet. It cut to the heart of how to live a good and meaningful life in the way that God would have us act. Spend some time with it if you will. I’ll just offer a taste to get you started, three thoughts that take some real honesty to get to the heart of things.
- Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…
- If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
- Stop judging and you will not be judged…Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Read the statements aloud. (How does it feel on the first read?) It will take some doing to go deeper than just recognizing the words. No squirming! Just stay with it until you’re ready to make a decision and a plan of how you can take a step toward this transformation in practice. (And then keep walking that path…)
Beginning with yesterday’s readings, the Lenten path grows more challenging. Not only are we to “make for ourselves a new heart and a new spirit” (yesterday’s challenge). Today calls us to reach out even further when we encounter others — especially those others whom we would never wish to meet. Here it is from the mouth of Jesus:
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 the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (MT 5: 43 –>)
Who are your enemies? Even if it is likely that there may be little chance of you ever meeting an enemy face to face, can you really say there is no one on earth that you could not welcome into the circle of your embrace? How might you move toward acceptance? And, with steadfast love of God, might you hope to come someday to the forgiveness that bespeaks the love of God for all creatures?
Although the gospel passage itself would have been sufficient for reflection this morning with Jesus saying to his disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (MT 5: 43-48) I continued to feel a tug from my nightstand. As I pulled Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr which fell open to a page in the section called “The Blessing Hour,” I knew the rightness of the message for today. I offer her words of blessing, hoping that they will bring additional attention to the words of Jesus, so crucial to each of us at this moment in our country and our world.
May your work this day be your love made visible. May you breathe upon the wounds of those with whom you work. May you open yourself to God’s breathing. May you honor the flame of love that burns inside you. May your voice this day be a voice of encouragement. May your life be an answer to someone’s prayer. May you own a grateful heart. May you have enough joy to give you hope, enough pain to make you wise. May there be no room in your heart for hatred. May you be free from violent thoughts. When you look into the window of your soul may you see the face of God. May the lamp of your life shine upon all you meet this day. (p. 85)