Homily: 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There once was a preacher whose Sunday sermon was entitled: Forgive Your Enemies. Toward the end of the service, he asked his congregation, "how many of you have forgiven your enemies"? About half held up their hands.
He then repeated his question—thinking some people didn’t hear him. This time about 80 percent held up their hands. He then repeated his question a third time, thinking some of them were half-asleep. Everyone’s hand went up, except one small elderly lady in the front row.
"Mrs. Jones?" inquired the preacher, are you not willing to forgive your enemies? Didn’t you listen to this morning’s Gospel? "I don't have any enemies." she replied. "Mrs. Jones, that is highly unlikely. How old are you?" "Ninety-three," she replied.
"Oh, Mrs. Jones, would you please stand up and tell this congregation how a person can live ninety-three years and not have an enemy in the world." The little sweetheart of a lady stood up, faced the congregation, and said "I outlived the dirty rats."
Why is it so hard to be like Jesus? Let’s be honest. It’s really hard, isn’t it? I know it is for me. I’m not kind enough. I don’t give enough. I don’t reach out enough. I don’t forgive enough. I don’t love enough.
And then I say I’ll be better, but soon fall into the same pattern as before—making the same mistakes, committing the same sins. I really wish I could be a lot more like Jesus. That’s what I really want.
As you know, it’s not always easy to know exactly what God wants from us. Life can be complicated. Situations can be complicated. People can be complicated.
And of course, on top of that, we don’t have an absolute complete picture of Jesus—his every move, his every word, his every action, or his every expectation.
Some of the stories about him are puzzling. Some of the stories he told are strange and confusing to our modern-day ears. And as a result, sometimes we simply don’t have a clear-cut answer to every moral question, and we truly must wrestle with and agonize over what choice to make in a given situation. Well, here’s the good news. Today is NOT one of those days.
The Gospel passage we just heard has some of the most direct, uncomplicated, plain-spoken words in all of Scripture.
Of course, a lot of Christians ask: Did Jesus really say these things? Did he use these exact words? Well, we can be reasonably confident that St. Luke didn’t just take some “politically correct” statements and exaggerate them for effect or emphasis. No. Jesus almost certainly said what he wrote down. Listen again.
Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Turn the other cheek. Give your cloak AND tunic from the one who takes what is yours and do not demand it back. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Lend without expecting repayment. Do good to your enemies. Be merciful. Stop judging. Stop condemning. Start forgiving.
My goodness, just living out one of these should guarantee sainthood!
So, does anyone here still want to be just like Jesus? Can we say in all honesty that imitating Jesus is truly my goal, the kind of person I want to be, the best-version-of-myself?
You see, our greatest sin is probably not being greedy, or selfish, or controlling, it might just be our stubborn unwillingness to even TRY to be like Jesus, our unwillingness to even WANT to be like Jesus, our constant refrain of telling ourselves: I can’t be like Jesus, when we really mean, I don’t want to be like Jesus.
You know, occasionally, the requirements of the Christian way of life hits us right in the face, shakes us up, challenges us in ways we simply don’t want to be challenged. Today is one of those days. How are we doing? Have we given up? Is Jesus just asking too much from me?
Which is it? Who are we at this very moment? And who do we want to be tomorrow?