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Love Without Measure
Seventh Sunday 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 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: Heavenly Father, your Son, our brother and Lord, became human in all things but sin. He came to show us your love and how to live what you call us to as your image and likeness in the world. I believe that through your grace, you make it possible for me to grow more and more into the image of Jesus. Knowing that you love me and offer me your own Holy Spirit gives me hope that I can be who you call me to be and live according to your will. Your love makes it possible for me to love both you and my neighbor. In this time of prayer, open my ears so that I might hear you speaking to me personally and open my heart to answer “yes” to whatever it is you ask of me.
- The Golden Rule: In the Old Testament book of Tobit, Tobit’s father instructed him on proper conduct as he prepared for a journey. Those instructions included the statement: “Do to no one what you yourself hate” (Tobit 4:15). In other words, Tobit was instructed to avoid negative behaviors or mistreating others. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ instruction to his listeners is very different. He first gave concrete examples of Christian love in action and then offered a positive formulation of the general principle, now commonly referred to as the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus calls us to something greater than avoiding negative behaviors. As his followers, we are called to do good to others, to bless them, and to pray for them—even when others do not reciprocate and even when they hurt us. Jesus tells us to treat others as we wish to be treated. This seems to fly in the face of popular opinion today, which instructs us not to let others take advantage of us and to make certain that we are treated fairly. Our life in Christ is the source of the wisdom and strength with which we balance the need to set healthy boundaries and at the same time offer the love Christ calls us to extend. We can reflect on our response to others’ demands, unkindness, selfishness, and harshness. Do we tend to respond in kind? Are we self-protective, demanding fairness in order to treat others with respect? Do we speak (or think) negatively or harshly about others and feel justified in doing so? Does our response to those who oppose or oppress us in some way model Christ’s love of those persons?
- Magnanimity: The love Christ calls us to is not just an idea or words. He calls us to love through actions that seem far beyond what is fair or reasonable. Christian love is magnanimous: selfless, bighearted, generous, forgiving, altruistic. At times, it may even be heroic. When Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive someone who sinned against him, “As many as seven times?” Jesus replied, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times,” indicating limitless forgiveness (Matthew 18:22-23). As Jesus’ followers, we are called to the radical love Jesus modeled on the cross.
- The Two Ways: The Catechism teaches that the Golden Rule sums up “The Law of the Gospel”…to “make the decisive choice between ‘the two ways’ and to put into practice the words of the Lord” (CCC 1970). What are the two ways highlighted in this paragraph? This is a reference to the wide gate and easy road that leads to destruction and the narrow gate and hard road that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). We can ask ourselves how willing we are to open our hearts to Christ’s transforming power and do all that we can to form ourselves in virtue so that we can love as he loves. Are we willing to take the narrow gate and follow the often difficult road to growing in virtue? If not, what are the obstacles that keep us from following our Lord?
Conversing with Christ: Lord, when I reflect on my response to those who hurt me, I see how far I am from loving as you love. Yet I know that, as your follower, you call me to love as you love. Lord, I want to love even when it is difficult. I want to love those who oppose me. I want to love those who are different from me and whom I don’t understand. I want to love those who treat me unfairly. Lord, I want to love everyone whom you put in my path. Lord, expand my heart and teach me to love. Fill me with your grace so that I can put into practice what you teach me. I know I am weak and that I will fail to love, so I ask for the grace of perseverance as I strive to grow in my ability to love and my living in the love to which you call me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will strive to forgive any and all offenses quickly rather than allowing myself to dwell on them with negative thoughts, and I will be especially attentive to times I may have hurt or offended others and will ask for forgiveness promptly.
For Further Reflection: Read and ponder Matthew 7:21-27 or read this Facebook post from Bishop Robert Barron (September 12, 2019).
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.