Love your enemy
Our Lord’s abundant and radical love for us should inspire us to do likewise for others.
Gospel Reading: Luke 15:1-10
This homily was preached to the student brothers during compline. Listen here or read below:
“Who am I?” This may sound like a complicated existential question, but this is precisely what today’s Gospel passage teaches us. “Who am I in the eyes of the world?” and “Who am I in the sight of God?”
Today’s Gospel passage, which comes from the first half of Luke 15, begins with the Pharisees and the scribes complaining about Jesus receiving and eating with tax collectors and sinners. In response, we hear two parables: the parables of the lost sheep and of the lost coin. And if we continue reading the rest of Luke 15, we’ll come across a third parable: that of the prodigal son. All three emphasize and highlight God’s abundant mercy and love for us, which is the very core of our faith. And there is much that these parables can teach us about our relationship with the Lord and our relationship with those around us.
Many people in today’s society tells us that mercy and forgiveness are only available to those who are deserving of it; that we should reject people who fall short of our moral standards as “other” (One only needs to log on to social media to see this in action). We are encouraged to divide ourselves into groups, defining ourselves based on our disagreements – whether it be Brexiteers or Remainers, Conservatives or Progressives, Traditional Catholics or Liberal Catholics, the list goes on. We ‘unfriend’ those we disagree with and label the other group as stupid or evil. The so-called ‘Cancel Culture’ demands that we silence anyone who even dares associate with the other group. We harbour resentment in our hearts towards people who annoy us, even within our own families, and we feel pretty good about ourselves when we do so – after all, we’re right and they’re wrong.
However, in today’s reading, we encounter a God whose radical love for us calls us away from such destructive behaviour. In the first parable, we encounter a God who, when we turn away from him, isn’t content to just sit back and wait for us to come back to him. He doesn’t wait for us to earn his mercy, or to prove ourselves worthy of it. Rather, he takes the initiative and comes searching for us. He loves us so gratuitously that he chose to become incarnate and “while we were yet sinners, [he] died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Now, this is not to trivialise sin, or to imply that sin doesn’t matter. Sin is a big deal. How do we know this? Because our Lord Jesus died for our sins. He DIED for us – that’s how serious sin is. Our sin may be great, but our Lord shows us that his love is greater – that there is no sin too great for him to forgive; and his forgiveness is available freely and gratuitously to all who want it. As a further act of mercy, he even gives us the sacrament of reconciliation as a tangible means for us to express our repentance and to re-accept his free gift of love, each time we turn away from him through sin.
In the second parable, Jesus tells us who we are when he compares us to a coin. A coin bears the image of the ruler and has value because the ruler says so. So too we, who are made in the image and likeness of the most high God, have value, not because of whatever talents we may have, or because of our political affiliations, or even our gender and sexual identity, etc., but because God says so. We have value because of his great love which has no end.
So, having been forgiven of our sins time and time again, and having received the free and wonderful gift of God’s love, what does it say about us if we refuse to treat those around us with compassion and mercy? What does it say about us when we fail to love our neighbours AND our enemies; when we say with our mouths that we love Jesus but in our hearts we curse the people we disagree with?
So, let us, from today, repent of the times we have failed to love others. Let us turn to our Lord and ask him for the grace to be able to love our neighbours and our enemies. Let us pray constantly for the people in our lives who annoy us. And let us never forget the words of St Paul, “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3).