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Know the Father
Thursday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, 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. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 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. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, you ask a lot of us in these lines of Scripture. As I reflect on your words, help me to see where I need to grow in your grace. I am listening, Lord.
- To You Who Hear: Our Lord challenged his listeners to live radical charity and he challenges us as well. How difficult it can be to love, do good, and bless and pray for our enemies! Yet, Jesus began his statement by saying, “To you who hear.” Those of us who hear Jesus and know him realize that he doesn’t ask more from us than we are capable of giving. We say with St. Paul, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Philippians 4:12). Corrie ten Boom, a concentration camp survivor, was asked to forgive a guard she knew who approached her after the war. She wrote, “It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do… ‘Jesus, help me!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’ And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.” Corrie sets an example for us as she trusted in the goodness of God who gave her the grace to do this difficult thing.
- Follow His Example: Our Lord draws our attention to God the Father, who he says is merciful and kind to the ungrateful and wicked. “Be like your Father,” Jesus says. In fact, “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Jesus says in Matthew 5:48. But Jesus didn’t just ask us to be good like his Father—Jesus showed us how to do it. He gave us beatitudes, the parables, and his life, lived in union with the Father. “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me….” (John 14:11). If we want to know how to be like the Father, we need only look to Jesus.
- Rewards: To love our enemies is difficult, but Our Lord encourages us by pointing out the reward for obedience. “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…” There is no greater reward on earth or in heaven than to live as a child of God. When we exercise the virtues of mercy, forgiveness, and non-judgmentalism, we become happier people. Our lives are continually enriched by our personal relationship with Jesus. And our eternal reward will be beyond our wildest imaginings. “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him…” (1 Corinthinas 2:9).
Conversing with Christ: Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed on you, especially when I am called upon to do the difficult work of forgiving someone. I want to believe that, by your grace, I build treasures in heaven with each act of love I share today.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine my conscience to see where I hold a grudge or make a rash judgment, and will take a concrete step to reach out to that person.
For Further Reflection: Bishop Barron on Judgment and God.
Written by Maribeth Harper.