The Pastor’s Thoughts for February 19, 2023 — The 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 16, 2023 | By Bishop Roy E. Campbell, Jr.

“Love you enemies.”

“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How do we achieve perfection? We achieve it with love. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.” This seems to be easy enough to do, but it is not enough. Jesus goes on to say, “The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do we hate ourselves? No, we don’t. Jesus’ second commandment of love tells we cannot hate anyone else, even if we feel that they treat us like enemies. Jesus said to His disciples: “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 his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?”

How can we have love for our enemies, yet alone pray for them? From what Jesus told His disciples in today’s Gospel, if as a boy I did not like another boy, who was mean to me, and who asked to borrow my bag of marbles, not only should I give him my bag of marbles, but I should also voluntarily give him my ‘cat’s eye,’ my special marble as well.

Jesus is telling us what it really means to love and to love unconditionally. It is easy to love those who love us, but can we love those who hate us? The examples that Jesus uses in the Gospel, to give more to an enemy than is asked for, is a demonstration of unconditional love.

Jesus is teaching us to respond to personal insults and humiliation with grace, patience, and forgiveness. We live in a world full of violence and hatred. Starting in our communities, we must break the cycle of violence and hatred by not always insisting on getting our own way, but by going out of our way to do good to others, even when they hate us and don’t deserve it. That is unconditional love. Jesus died on the Cross, because of His unconditional love, even for those who hated Him. Dying on the Cross, Jesus prayed for those who put Him there, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is the love of God, in whose image each of us is created.

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