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Thursday – Twenty-third week – OT1
Readings: Col 3:12-17; Lk 6:27-38.
1/ First Reading: RSV Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, 13 forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
2/ Gospel: RSV Luke 6:27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. 31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
I. THEME: Let imitate Christ so we can live a perfect life.
Religion is not purely about outside ceremonies, but the way to help people to be perfect. Christ demands us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. In order to meet this goal, we need to follow what Christ teaches us and daily train ourselves to acquire all necessary virtues.
Today readings give us reasons why we need to be perfect and teach us the way to attain it. In the first reading, the author of the Letter to the Colossians gave us reasons to be perfect: because we are selected, sanctified and loved. In the Gospel, Jesus revealed that we are equipped to love our enemy by the love which God bestows on our soul so we can be perfect as our heavenly Father.
1/ Reading I: Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
1.1/ Train to have necessary virtues:
(1) The faithful are equipped to live a good life since they are selected, sanctified and love in Christ: They are selected to be Christ’s disciples and God’s children by their faith in Christ. They are sanctified through two periods: they are purified from sins by Christ’s blood and are equipped by the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts to live a perfect life. The faithful are loved by God, and He also gives them this love so they might use it to love everyone.
In the faithful’s virtuous life, there are three theological virtues which God directly gives to the faithful; there are also virtues which the faithful must train themselves to acquire them; for examples, the four cardinal virtues. We call them the cardinal virtues because the faithful must firmly stand on these four virtues which are: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance in order to have a good life. In today passage, the author listed out five virtues which the faithful must have, they are: compassion, kindness, lowliness, gentleness and perseverance. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, these five virtues are members of the four cardinal virtues.
(2) Two most important virtues:
– Forgiveness: The author advised his faithful, “Forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Forgiveness always has two dimensions which are expressed by the symbol of Christ’s cross: the vertical dimension with God and the horizontal with others; there can’t be one dimension without the other. If a person was reconciled with God, he must be reconciled with others; if not, his reconciliation with God shall be rendered as ineffective.
– Love: This is one of the three theological virtues and the most important virtue as the author advised his faithful, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Love is above all virtues because it binds all goodness together; without this virtue, the faithful can’t be perfect. They can’t have other virtues without this virtue (Cf. 1 Cor 13).
1.2/ The faithful must put Christ as the center of their life: The faithful have peace because Christ reconciled them with God and others by forgiving all their sins. St. Paul wishes the faithful should let Christ’s peace control their mind because they are called to enjoy that peace as members of Christ’s body.
Since the faithful are Christ’s disciples, they must let Christ’s teaching to dwell in their heart. Then, they must wisely use it to teach and to admonish each other. To show their gratitude, they must sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in their hearts to God. In short, they must do everything in Christ’s name as Paul advised them, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
2/ Gospel: Love your enemies and do good to those who persecuted you.
An analysis about words shall help us to better understand Jesus’ requirements in this passage. In Greek, there are three verbs used for love:
(1) To express romantic love between a male and a female, they use the verb “eran.”
(2) To express familial love between members of a family or between friends, they use the verb “filein.”
(3) To express love between the faithful who believe in Christ as used in today passage, the evangelists use the verb “agapan.” This verb is only used in the context of the Christianity.
People can’t love their enemies in the first meaning, because they can’t love them by romantic love. They can’t love them in the second meaning because it is against the nature. But they can love their enemies in the third meaning, with God’s love. This love depends not only on the heart but also more on the will. With the love that comes from God, the faithful can do impossible things as Jesus demanded in today passage, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.”
When we had just heard about Jesus’ teaching, we think they are very similar to the wisdom or doctrine of other religions; for example, the Confucius’ teaching which many people regard them as the Golden Rule or Reciprocal Rule which stated “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself” (Analects XV.24, tr. David Hinton). But if we carefully analyze them, we will see they are very different and better than all doctrines from beginning to now. Jesus’ teaching is positive, “Do to others what you want them to do for you” while Golden Rule is only negative, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” The positive rule is more difficult than the negative rule; the faithful must be permeated by God’s love before they can do what Jesus demanded.
Why does Jesus demand his disciples to do such a difficult task?” Jesus gave a reason which is to become like God, “If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for He himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.” To be God’s children must be different than others’ children. If the faithful only love those who love them and return favor to those who do favor to them, they aren’t different with sinners.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Since we were selected, sanctified and love, we can’t live as ordinary people; but to train ourselves to live a virtuous life as Christ teaches us.
– To love our enemy isn’t an advice; but a command. We are equipped to be able love our enemy.