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Seeing as God Sees
Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
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? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, you cared enough about me to come to this world and reveal your plan of salvation. You cared about me enough to make me–through baptism–a temple where you dwell. You cared enough about me to pour the gift of your Holy Spirit into my heart, especially through the sacrament of confirmation. As I come before you today, I ask you for the grace to increase my faith in your love for me, to increase my hope in your hopes for me, to increase my trust and confidence in your wise and all-powerful providence as it guides me towards the fulfillment and fruitfulness for which I yearn.
- What God Sees: When God looks at sinners, even stubborn sinners, he doesn’t see unredeemable devils. Rather, he sees his beloved children who have gone astray. He never condones or ignores the sin, but sees the deeper identity of the sinner, who was created in his image and has the potential to become a saint by being open to and cooperating with God’s grace. God never gives up on any of us. God never stops loving us. He never turns his back on us. That is what Jesus is getting at by likening God’s love to the sun and the rain, gifts necessary for life, gifts that God never holds back from anyone, even from seemingly irreformable sinners. When Jesus exhorts us to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” he isn’t requiring us to somehow become immaculate. Rather, he is encouraging us to believe in this love God has for everyone, and to echo it and imitate it in our own lives. Loving our enemies doesn’t mean approving of their sins, it just means believing that God created them with a good purpose in mind, and that God’s redeeming grace is meant for them as well as for us.
- Making Excuses: One of the most concrete ways we can love others as God loves us is by making excuses for them. We do this for ourselves all the time. If I happen to be late to an appointment, I naturally forgive myself, because I know that my tardiness is due to factors outside my control, or at least due to factors that are reasonable and acceptable. On the other hand, when someone else is late to an appointment with me, I have a very different reaction. I get angry, self-righteous, judgmental, impatient. I start throwing the other person under the bus and thinking the worst about them. Why the double standard? Why do I so easily make excuses for myself but so rarely make excuses for others? This is part of our heritage of original sin. Our minds are darkened and our hearts are twisted. Jesus is pointing that out in this passage. He wants us to recognize that everyone around us is, in God’s eyes, our brother and sister. We are meant to connect with others and give them the benefit of the doubt. That’s how we create an environment in which we can all live peacefully and prosperously. And if Jesus is commanding us to adopt this attitude, this point of view, it must really be possible for us to do so. Indeed, with his help and guidance, we can do many things that remain out of reach when we just try harder and harder with our own strength. As St. Paul put it: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
- God’s First Book of Revelation: So many times in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses phenomena from the natural world to illustrate his lessons. In this case, he points out how the sunshine and the rain reflect God’s attitude towards us, his goodness and his love. If even the sun and the rain can teach us about God and reveal him to us, then everything in the natural world simply must be able to do the same. What is more mundane, more everyday-normal-undramatic than sunshine and rain? St. John Paul II used to say that the Bible was God’s second book of revelation; the natural world was his first one. How attentive am I to God’s fingerprints in creation? How sensitive am I to the beauties and the harmony built into this natural world that God has given to be our home and our arena of spiritual growth? Postmodern culture often talks about the importance of preserving the environment, but very rarely talks about the spiritual meaning of the world as God created it. As we transition into summer, what can I do to better receive the instruction and inspiration that God wants to give me through his magnificent creation?
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you know me better than I know myself. You know that so often my heart is like a porcupine, bristling at others and isolating myself from them. I have so little patience with people’s flaws and failings, even with their idiosyncrasies! I am so unlike you, who makes the sun shine and the rain fall on the just and the unjust alike. But I can see and taste the interior freedom that would come from keeping my heart open to others, even to those who disrespect me or don’t like me. I want to learn to be perfect as you are perfect. I want to spread your grace wherever I go. I want to embody in my life the goodness that continually flows from your heart. Please teach me and guide me, Lord, and make my heart more like yours.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pay special attention to negative or accusatory thoughts and attitudes that come up in my relationship with other people. When I notice them, I will look up and think about the sunshine and rain that you pour out on the good and the bad alike, and I will ask you for the grace to “be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.”
For Further Reflection: Summer Meditations.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.