Love and Hate - A Reflection on Matthew 5:43-48
“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.
One of the reasons I lost my faith as a boy was because nobody answered the many questions that I had. I was told to “just believe”, and to a person of some intelligence, that was absurd. I soon began to realize that people didn’t have answers because THEY “just believed”, and then I began to wonder if they were any answers to be had at all. Religion might be exactly what Marx said it was: the opium of the people. But since my return to the faith, I have realized that there are answers to be found. And they are good answers.
This is why, whenever I begin teaching people about the faith, especially in the Schools of Discipleship, I begin by telling the listeners they SHOULD ask two questions. One is ‘why’, so that they have reasons for why they are being told to do something. And the second is ‘how’ to do what they are being told to do. Today’s passages offers us opportunities to ask both questions. Jesus says, “Love your enemies”. Really? I find it difficult to love my friends, I am supposed to love my enemies? Why?
Well, Jesus provides a few answers to that question here. One, we are children of the Father. The Father provides both the good and the bad with rain and sunshine (perhaps a little too much of each sometimes), and if we really want to show that we are his children, then we have to do the same. Right? Another reason is because there is a reward awaiting those in heaven who obey the will of the Father, and that we love our enemies IS the will of our Father. Which leads to another ‘why’.
Why is it the will of the Father that we love our enemies? Because our enemies should not be our enemies, they should be our friends. We are all people that God created, and he didn’t create us to hate each other. Just think about this for a moment. You think God created us to hate each other and destroy one another? Come on! Now if you really want to destroy your enemy, make him your friend. Isn’t that a better option than chopping his head off?
Which brings me to another reason, and we reflected on this yesterday. Hatred only begets hatred, and we will only end up destroying ourselves. Do you really want to be the survivors of a nuclear war? So that brings about the next question: How? Start talking about love. Start teaching about love. Start expressing love. Have you noticed that when it comes to hate, there is no hesitation in anybody about demonstrating it? When it comes to expressing love, there is only reticence.
Have you also noticed that it is easier for us to punch another person than it is for us to give the person a hug. Why? I’ll tell you. It is because the devil has twisted love—like he has twisted everything else—into something terrible, and has made us afraid of it. Should we buy into his lies, or should we do what God tells us to do. So, that’s how we do it. By understanding love is from God. By understanding that it is a good thing. And by understanding that if we want a better world, it can come only through love.
And then putting this understanding into practice.
A Reflection on Matthew 5:38-42
When Jesus was quoting that part about exacting “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” he was actually quoting Scripture, and the phrase (or something similar) can be found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. People often point to this as saying that God allowed for vendetta, but that isn’t quite right. This phrase, which is NOT to be taken literally, is based on the principle of fair justice. This basically means that the punishment should correspond in kind and degree to the injury.
Let me explain. It is the rare human being who, when hurt, does not desire vengeance. Given the opportunity, he will often inflict greater damage than has been suffered. “You killed one of mine; now I will kill ten of yours.” You see this in the movies all the time. So, to prevent excessive punishment at the hands of an avenging individual (or government) the “eye-for-an-eye” policy ensures that the punishment should fit the crime.
Now, this is justice. But like Gandhi, who was very inspired by Jesus, said, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” And that is exactly what is happening to the world. A desire for vengeance is resulting in a vicious unending spiral of pain that never seems to end, because everyone is reacting only in hate. Hurt continues to be inflicted, and old wounds get deeper, while new wounds are constantly being gouged.
How does it end? It will end only if one party says, “Enough. You hurt me if you want; I won’t hurt back. No matter the provocation.” And then, if this person is able to follow through on his decision, they the cycle of unending pain might cease. It isn’t easy, because sometimes the other person just goes on hitting and hitting, often under the belt, and you wanna hit back just to make him stop. And not to react can take everything out of you, because there is a part of you that keeps crying: foul!
I have found myself tested on this, myself, and finally the only way I managed to succeed (kind of!) was to think of Jesus’ Passion, and how he didn’t retaliate. In the Garden of Gethsamene, when Peter raised his sword to defend him, Jesus rebuked him harshly. “Put your sword away, Peter. If I wanted I could have twelve legions of angels to defend me? But this is how it should be. (See John 18:11, Matthew 26:52).
He did that for us. Let us do the same for him.
Corruption - A reflection on John 16:12-15
It is time for Jesus to go to heaven. The disciples are a worried, confused, fearful lot,
but Jesus tells them that it is good that he goes, because then he would send the
Holy Spirit. In his incarnation as a human, Jesus was limited by time and space, so
he couldn’t be everywhere at all times. The Holy Spirit, however, would have no such
restriction, which means he can be with all of us, all the time. Please do note that I
used the pronoun “he” — just as Jesus did — because we should think of the Holy
Spirit in personal terms.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth, which is what he
does—but we would be wise to remember that he has been doing this with men and
women for the past two thousand years ever since he descended upon the apostles
on the day of Pentecost.
The apostles and their successors helped to lay the doctrinal foundations of the
church after much discussion and prayer, and these remained true for hundreds of
There cannot be variations on the truth, especially contradictory ones, and we would,
again, be wise to make note of this fact, because in the name of the Holy Spirit, the
church has become increasingly fragmented. How does that make any sense? The
Holy Spirit is a spirit of unity, not division. One of Jesus’ greatest concerns was unity
(see John 17). It was one of Paul’s concerns too (see Ephesians 4:2-3). It should be
the concern of any believer who loves Jesus, because his body cannot be divided.
Now I am a Catholic, and I hold to the teachings of the Catholic Church because I
believe it is the original Church that Jesus founded, but I have realized that over the
past several years the teachings of the Church are being distorted by those who
preach in its name. How can we continue to claim we have the fullness of the faith
with many who are starting to preach their own theories, often heretical? What are
the faithful to do? Who are they supposed to listen to? This is when the Holy Spirit
plays an important role, because he will guide us into the truth.
So whenever you listen to something that somebody says—and that is everybody
who preaches, including me—do what the Bereans did. “They welcomed the
message (they heard from Paul) very eagerly (but) examined the scriptures every
day to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11). You make sure you have two
books with you: the Bible and the Catechism. And don’t believe a word, unless you
validate it for yourself through these two books.
Those who corrupt the truth will hate me for it; but everybody else will thank me for it.