Matthew 5: 38-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“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, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
God’s River of Forgiveness
One of the things I’ve been told repeatedly by older Jesuits is that old age is not for sissies. And you know, neither is Christianity. Even when we’re not paying that much attention, the expectations of our faith are significant. And none more so than Jesus’ words today that we should love our enemies.
At the same time, if a survey was done worldwide, I suspect it would find that the most frequent sin priests hear confessed is the struggle to forgive. As awful as we can be to one another, in my experience most of us really do want to forgive, or at least let go of the pain and the rage we feel inside. Sometimes we are able to. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t.
That’s in a sense the whole point of the sacrament of reconciliation—we come before God to help us do the things that we find ourselves unable to do. Sin reminds us of just how small and weak we can be, and our need for not just God’s forgiveness, but his active intervention in our lives.
One confessor gave me this advice: “Think of forgiveness less as something you yourself have to do and more like a river moving on its own, guided by the Holy Spirit. And rather than try to force it (when you know you can’t), your job is just to try and stay out of its way.
—Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J, a Wisconsin province Jesuit, is an accomplished professional screenwriter who lives at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles CA.
Father in heaven, deepen the life of Jesus within my heart. Send me as a witness of gospel hope into a world of fragile peace and broken promises. Touch my heart with your love so I in turn may love all those I meet this week. Amen!
—The Jesuit Prayer Team