Gospel for Sunday, February 20 Luke 6: 27-38
VII Sunday C
27But to you who hear, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; to those who take away your cloak, do not refuse the tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you; and from him who takes what is of yours, do not ask for it. 31What you want men to do to you, you also do to them. 32If you love those who love you, what merit will you have? Even sinners do the same. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit will you have? Even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit will you have? Even sinners lend to sinners to receive the same. 35Instead, love your enemies, do good and lend without expecting anything from it, and your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High; because he is benevolent towards the ungrateful and the wicked.
36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; 38give and it will be given to you; a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap, for with the measure with which you measure, it will be measured to you in return.
Luke 6: 27-38
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
From revenge to love for enemies
In the Bible there is a progression of understanding of the mystery of God between the Old and New Testaments, and only in Jesus, the living Word of the Father, does the definitive Revelation occur. The books of the Old Testament “contain imperfect and perishable things… The books of the Old Testament, integrally taken up in evangelical preaching, acquire and manifest their full meaning in the New Testament (see Mt 5.17; Lk 24.27), which they in turn they illuminate and explain” (Dei Verbum, nn. 15-16). “To derive the exact meaning of the sacred texts, one must pay attention… to the content and unity of all Scripture” (Dei Verbum, n. 12).
This progression is clearly seen on the theme of revenge. Lamech, Cain’s great-grandson, states: “I killed a man for my scratch and a boy for my bruise. Cain will be avenged seven times, but Lamech seventy-seven times” (Gen 4,23-24). The rest of the Pentateuch already takes a big step forward, limiting revenge to the size of the offense: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Ex 21.24; Lev 24.20; Dt 19.21); that is, we move from a revenge seventy-seven times the offense to a retaliation that cannot exceed the injury suffered.
We have too easily purged the so-called imprecatory Psalms from the Liturgy of the Hours, because they were mistakenly considered too crude and violent. In reality they represent a further maturation of ethics. In fact, they are the expression of an attitude of non-violence: men renounce all revenge and entrust the judgment to God, even if they express this in the literary genre of the victim who asks for the elimination of the executioner: “Condemn them, O God, let them succumb to their plots, disperse them for so many of their crimes” (Ps 5,11); “Let those who accuse me be confounded and destroyed, let those who seek my misfortune be covered with infamy and shame” (Ps 71,13); “Let them remain confused and troubled forever, let them be humiliated, let them perish” (Ps 83,14-18).
With Jesus, however, we arrive at a complete overcoming of revenge. Indeed, Jesus states: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… If you love those who love you, what merit will you have? Even sinners do the same. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit will you have? Even sinners do the same” (Lk 6,27-35). And Paul, following the example of the Master, continues: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12,19-21).
Called to the “imitatio Dei”
Jesus brings a real revolution, which seems unacceptable and crazy in the eyes of the world. Why does he come and ask so much of his disciples? First of all because the believer is called to “imitatio Dei”, that is, to model himself on God himself: “He is benevolent towards the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6,35-36).
Forgive because you are forgiven
The second reason is that “we must forgive because God has forgiven us and always forgives us”, states Pope Francis: “If we do not forgive completely, we cannot expect to be forgiven. Instead, if our hearts open to mercy, if forgiveness is sealed with a fraternal embrace and the bonds of communion are tightened, we proclaim before the world that it is possible to overcome evil with good.”
The “Christian difference”
Pope Francis states: “Loving your enemies is not an optional, it is a command. It is not for everyone, but for the disciples.” Tertullian said: “Everyone loves friends, only Christians love enemies”. “This is the «Christian difference», the difference of the disciple of Jesus compared to Jews or pagans, indifferent or non-believers… David Flusser, a great Jewish scholar who was also fascinated by and listened attentively to Jesus, said that this command of his was the only one that could not find fulfillment, but was destined to remain a utopia. Yet history bears witness to disciples who, like Stephen, the first Christian martyr, lived this command until their death, invoking forgiveness (see Acts 7.60), as Jesus had done on the cross (see Luke 23.34) ” (E. Bianchì).
The extremism of Love
Pope Francis also speaks of “Christian innovation… The Lord was not prudent, he did not compromise, he asked us for the extremism of charity. It is the only Christian extremism: that of love.”
“How can it be done? Jesus tells us: «Pray, pray for your enemies». Prayer works miracles and this is true not only when we are in the presence of enemies; it also applies when we harbor some antipathy, “some small enmity”. And then we must pray, because «it is as if the Lord came with oil and prepared our hearts for peace»” (Pope Francis).
“If we do not take on the other – and in particular the other who has made himself our enemy, who contradicts us, who opposes us, who slanders us – in prayer, thus learning to see him with the eyes of God, in the mystery of his person and his vocation, one will never be able to love him!” (E. Bianchi).
Allow ourselves to be transformed by Jesus
“Jesus knows very well that loving our enemies is beyond our possibilities, but for this reason he became man: not to leave us as we are, but to transform us into men and women capable of a greater love, that of his Father and our. This is the love that Jesus gives to those who listen to him. And then it becomes possible! With Him, thanks to his love for him, to his Spirit, we can love even those who don’t love us, even those who hurt us. Jesus wants the love of God to triumph over hatred and resentment in every heart” (Pope Francis).
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.