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Discipleship is loving like God

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Jesus continues with his sermon on the plains, going into the details of his main lesson, the Beatitudes which is about love. But not just love as we know and practice: twice Jesus tells us to “Love your enemies” (Lk.6:27, 35).

His instruction to “love your enemies” captures all the other moral injunctions in his lessons this Sunday meant to teach us to love like God as revealed by Jesus Christ. Recall how these past three Sundays we have been assured of the grace of God of the paradoxical happiness in life’s many contradictions we as disciples of Christ are invited to adopt by being poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted.

Jesus is teaching us his disciples to trust in him always, to look at everything in his perspective so that we may live and act like God our Father who loves everyone without measure. And to love without measure even one’s enemies begins in foregoing revenge as shown by David in the first reading.

In those day, Saul went down to the desert of Ziph with three thousand picked men of Israel, to search for David. So David and Abishai went among Saul’s soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner and his men sleeping around him. Going across to an opposite slope, David stood on a remote hilltop at a great distance from Abner and the troops. He said: “Here is the king’s spear. Let an attendant come over to get it. The Lord will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness. Today, the Lord delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.”

1 Samuel 26:2, 7, 13, 22-23

Photo by author, Dead Sea desert, 2017.

Imitating Christ in his love

David is a type of Jesus Christ, a prefiguration of his coming, of someone who completely trusts in God and his words promised to him. If we read on further, this scene beautifully ends with Saul blessing David for sparing his life as they parted ways while David tells the king, “As I valued your life highly today, so may the Lord value my life highly and deliver me from all difficulties” (1 Sam. 26:24).

To avenge one’s self on an evil doer is a “fairly” spontaneous reaction, something so automatic with our human nature. But to renounce punishment, to not retaliate like the Bishop of Belgium who was recently attacked and mocked by half-naked women recently for his stand against homosexual lifestyles is something so different and unusual. That is why the Bible teems with so many stories of similar accounts how men of God patiently bore all humiliations and pains to educate and form our conscience, forego vengeance and retaliations by trusting in the Lord always who will render to each one his and her due.

One of the most unforgettable story in modern time of such trust in God is by St. John Paul II who went to forgive assassin Mehmet Agca a year after seriously shooting him at the Vatican Square in 1981. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI shows the same confidence in God as his Savior in his latest pronouncements following recent attacks by some people regarding his handling of a sexual abuse case in Germany, not to mention his old age and sickness.

Photo by author, Tagaytay City, 15 February 2022.

Love begins with respect, seeing the worth of a person

Jesus is not asking us to be passive nor resigned in the face of injustice and violence happening around us; very clear at the inauguration of his ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth how Jesus declared he had come to heal our sickness and liberate those oppressed.

In asking us to return good for evil, to love one’s enemies is above all to love like God like he had shown us in its highest expression at the Cross. It is not something reserved only for Jesus as the Son of God nor for the saints or holy men like St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI or that Bishop in Belgium.

God does not love only those who do good or finds worthy; God loves everyone because of our very existence.

This is what Jesus is telling us to always look at, to find and see in everyone. We are persons to be loved, not things and objects to be owned and possessed that when no longer useful nor “good” who can be simply dismissed or thrown away.

An important component of love is respect which literally means “to look again” from the Latin words “re” for again and “specere” to look or see. From specere came the words spectacle/s, spectator, and spectacular.

It is when we fail or refuse to look and see an individual as a person – somebody like us with feelings and dreams, someone who cannot be simply defined by history or background, color or creed but another being with life who is from God alone – that is when we sin, that is when we fight and quarrel, making enemies.

When there is no respect, when we refuse to look and see the other as another person with a face reminding us of our very selves and God as our common Source and End, that is when hate and revenge get out of bounds because we have judged the other as somebody not like us or less than us.

It is from respect for the other person where all other virtues like justice and kindness, love and forgiveness spring form because it puts us at the same level despite the wrongs done to us. Respect is recognizing and affirming the personhood of each one of us in God that must guide us in relating.

Now that COVID seems to be waning in the country, may we keep the lessons of the face mask and social distancing which is the value of every person, to always reach out to others, and most of all, to look into the eyes, to find and feel the warmth of every person’s face as image and likeness of God.

To love is to find Jesus in everyone

All the teachings and moral instructions in the Bible – from the prophets to Jesus Christ – are not only doctrines and precepts to be followed but actually the self-revelations of our personal God who relates with each of us in every person. This is why at the end of his teachings this Sunday, Jesus reminds us that the “measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Lk.6:38).

Let us not look beyond for any other basis for our love and respect. Jesus alone is the One why we love without measure, even our enemies because in him we find the new Adam, the spiritual One according to St. Paul presents in the second reading whom we find in everyone as well as in our very selves. Amen.

You are loved. Have a blessed week ahead.

Photo by Mr. Vincent Go, 2020, Mang Dodong of Caloocan City who was forcibly quarantined in Navotas for a month after being caught without an ID while buying some fish to peddle in his neighborhood while a police general got free of any punishments celebrating his birthday mañanita.
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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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