Friday, February 16, 2007

February 18, 2007 ~ Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 6: 27-38

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 every one 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."

For Reflection and/or Discussion

Who are our enemies? What a strong word Jesus chooses! I do not know about you, but I am not aware of anyone who actually hates me personally. I do not think I encounter any people who despise me on any regular basis. Therefore, for this Scripture, I must take Christ’s words as applying to everyone I meet, whether they are friends, acquaintances, strangers, enemies, or even…family!

Jesus instructs us in this passage to give and give and give and give! That sounds like a devoted mother’s job description if I ever heard one! All are called to embrace true humility through self-sacrifice. When people continuously take from me, material and nonmaterial things, do I give generously or begrudgingly? How many times a day do my children “beg” for my attention? How many times do I give it to them with sincerity and respect? Do I respond to challenges to my beliefs or authority with appropriate meekness or with angry words and acts?

Think about the way others treat you: your spouse, your children, your friends, your relatives, your neighbors, a stranger, a cashier, etc... How would you like them to treat you differently? Do you treat them with the same courtesy? More? Less? I find admonishment in this lesson from Jesus. I know that often I am proud of the way I “love, do good, and lend” to my friends. When was the last time I gave “expecting nothing in return?” Do I expect to see the fruit of my generosity in this life? When I don’t see it, do I have faith in God’s kindness? He is kind even “to the ungrateful and the selfish.” That knocks me to my knees; I know I am ungrateful and selfish and do not deserve his kindness and mercy.

Speaking of mercy, how merciful am I to my kids? Do I model God’s forgiveness and gentleness for them? Do I judge others? Her house is neater/messier/fancier/plainer than mine. Her kids are more polite/rude/loud/quiet than mine. Do I judge myself? The verse says, “Judge not.” There is no mercy in judgment.

As moms, we are called to be self-sacrificing to our children and our husbands. There is a trend in the self-help industry that sacrificing too much is unhealthy; we must put ourselves first in order to serve others. I mostly disagree. Giving too much can be unhealthy, because we do have to take care of ourselves. What these “experts” do not know is that God will bless us when we put others first. The most blessings in my life come when I put my family first. It is only then when I am well-taken-care-of by my Father in Heaven. The balance is a constant struggle, deciding who to serve at any given moment: kids, house, husband, self, or others. Do I give until there is nothing left? When I fall into bed at the end of the day, have I given virtually everything I am to my vocation each day? (It is best, of course, if there is just a tad bit of us left when we go to bed with our hubbies!) Have I given with a joyful heart?

And finally, our Lord reminds me of my holiday baking. When you sift powdered sugar, there is so much more than before. Can you imagine pressing it down, squishing it firm, packing it into that one-cup measure until no more will fit? That’s a LOT of sugar! That’s God’s love for us! Sweet.

Don't draw back, and worse still, don't stop going up the Calvary of life. Jesus will extend His hand to steady you. The thought of the sustaining grace of God and the prize that Jesus has reserved for you will be a sweet comfort. ~ Saint Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio)