Loving the Enemy

The Sermon on the Mount at the beginning of St. Matthew’s Gospel show us one of the Discourses of Matthew and takes place relatively early in the Ministry of Jesus after He has been baptized by John the Baptist (Chapter Three), finished His fasting and meditation retreat in the desert (Chapter Four), and begun to preach in Galilee. It is a collection of the sayings and teachings of the Lord. 

It is from this perspective that we reflect this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 5: 38-48), when Jesus said to his disciples:

“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.

The succeeding verses continue on the Lord’s message of loving,

“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,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

Loving your enemies must be the most difficult commandment to follow but that is what God commands us to do. A Jesuit website (Ref.: www.thinkingfaith.org, Jesuits in Britain) aptly describes what the Lord did during the Sermon on the Mount,

Going up the hill to address His followers is done by the Lord to remind many of the early readers and to recall how on an earlier famous occasion in the history of Israel a mountain was the setting for the people of God to assemble and receive from their leader the revealed law of God.”

Jesus drew from the history of Israel to demonstrate the depth of His pronouncements. In the First Reading (Lv. 19: 1-2, 17-18), 

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.

It may be hard to accept the fact of loving someone you hate, and yet the very same act of loving one’s enemies is supposed to summarize the ministry of Christ. His ministry didn’t abolish the law, but to fulfill it. When you can’t follow the commandment of loving your neighbor, including your enemy; how can you say you “Love God with all your mind, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength”, whom you do not see? As difficult as it may seem, it defines what is needed to be intimate with Him. God’s love is truly unconditional, we are to strive to love as God does, though of course, it is challenging.

Research shared by the Loyola Press says that in the original text St. Matthew uses the Greek word “telos”, which is probably better translated here as “complete”. We are not to be perfect as in doing everything correctly, that is, as in being absolutely morally correct. Perfection may mean striving to reach the completeness we are called to in the Kingdom of Heaven. Attempting to love our enemies is part of striving for that completeness.

Let us pray that God grant us the wisdom and strength to work on eliminating our weaknesses and frailties to heed these commands. Towards this end, may we always be mindful in our actions. May we always be humble and resist the temptations of our egos and pride. 

Whoever keeps the word of Christ, the love of God is truly perfected in Him.” (1 Jn. 2: 5)

Choose Love

Studies show that the most common reason high-performing people leave a company is due to frustration with their direct supervisor. Maybe this frustration is rooted in disagreements over work, lack of resources, lack of training and development or lack of opportunities to grow within the organization. There may be times during tense situations that tempers and emotions rise such that managers berate their subordinates causing tension and discomfort in the workplace. Employees may start feeling the anger of their superiors in a negative way such that they start to plan and eventually leave their organizations. Managers shouldn’t use anger to drive their people to follow their commands. They shouldn’t use old outmoded ways to force people to follow their orders thereby creating worry and fear instead of respect. 

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 5: 17-37), Jesus said to His disciples:

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…”

The Lord emphasizes that killing isn’t only by physical means; one can commit the same if he is angry with others. Thus, we have to learn how to control it else we’ll acquire the habit without realizing it. We have to be mindful of our actions and speech in the course of our day-to-day activities. Speech and action that aren’t positive can stress out other people and affect their performance and behaviors. It can turn an otherwise pleasant experience into a nightmarish and traumatic one as well.

Today, let us start to manage our anger. As leaders in our own ways, let us be mindful of our speech and actions as these can discourage others from following what we preach and talk about. We have to lead by example just like what Christ did to the world. We have to respect God’s will for us by simply following His commands. Obedience should arise from our fear of going astray and distant from Him, afraid of eventually losing Him.

In the First Reading (Sir. 15: 15-20), the prophet reminds us of the just commands of Yahweh:

The eyes of God are on those who fear Him; He understands man’s every deed. No one does He command to act unjustly, to none does He give license to sin.

Let us pray that we be able to control our anger and live better lives for God’s honor and glory. Choose love because it is the only way we can remain calm and poise despite the challenges that we face. Loving God can only be realized if we love people despite their frailties; it isn’t possible without going the extra patience for them. Who knows, you can be their inspiration to become better versions of themselves! 

Can we start controlling our anger today?

“Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.”Matthew 11:25

AZS 02.16.2020

Being the Salt of the Earth

Salt is one of the most amazing seasonings that add flavor to food.  When taken alone, salt by itself is not that tasty.  But when added to spice up a variety of food preparations, fruits, or vegetables, it magically adds much and perks up exciting flavor sensations.

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 5: 13-16), Jesus said to His disciples:

You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

The Lord is challenging us to be the “salt of the earth”, meaning we are not to bring attention to ourselves but rather, to serve and help others transform into becoming vibrant, active and faithful followers of Christ. This is to be done one person at a time, making them closer to the Lord as we work to strengthen God’s Kingdom here on earth. These relationships we build with one another should also strengthen the relationships of each one of us with God. The joy, the love, and the hope we bring into the lives of others will make them closer to Christ thereby giving them a foretaste of Heaven.

Consequently, we fail to be this “salt of the earth” when we don’t inspire the people we meet to feel the love of God. When our presence isn’t significant for others such that we fail in making them feel hopeful, joyful and loved, we are like tasteless salt that is without value and meaning. Therefore, we have the duty to enhance the relationships of the people who we encounter on a daily basis. They are there for a reason such that if we’re unable to change them and make a difference in their lives, we also fail in our actions such that it can even be “tasteless”, and “trampled underfoot”. 

Let us pray that we do this solemn duty seriously. Let us endeavor to work on improving our connections and help others enhance their relationships with God. May the work we do with them bear fruit so that they also become loving and faithful followers of Christ.

I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows Me will have the light of life.” (Jn. 8: 12)

Finding Your Purpose

It took many generations for the people of Israel to wait for this day to come. Prophets spoke of this promise of the Messiah for many, many years. In the First Reading (Mal. 3: 1-4), the prophet Malachi thus prophesied,

Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.”

Yahweh God has been and will always be faithful in fulfilling His promises. In those ancient times, God has been accessible and present in their lives, it was only through Man’s unfaithfulness and sins, God soon appeared to be distant and far away. The reality though is He’s always near, present, and faithful. He promised to send the Messiah to save people from sin and evil.

We celebrate today (Lk. 2: 22-40) the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the glorious event of the Lord Jesus being presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph. The presentation was to fulfill the Law: “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. This Gospel of St. Luke, aside from showing the Jewish rite of purification, is also meant to show that God’s promise to Israel, fulfilled in Jesus, extends to the rest of the world.

During the presentation, there was in Jerusalem a man whose name was Simeon; who was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that “he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Christ of the Lord”. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to Him, and recognized Him. What is interesting here is that Simeon may have found fulfillment to his purpose in life. He declared that,

Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

That says deeply about Simeon telling that his life is complete and is ready to go. It is a reminder for us to find and fulfill our purpose in life as well. Because he was a man of faith, the Holy Spirit has revealed to him that he was to meet the Christ Child in the temple at His presentation and to then consecrate this Child to the Father in accordance with the Law.  

What about you? Have you found your purpose in life? If you haven’t found it, continue to look for it in faith. It is a purpose that is unique to you as God may have a different one for you and for me. Regardless, we’ll all have a common purpose of receiving Christ in our hearts and minds and sharing this faith to our families and to the world.

Let us pray that one day we may be like Simeon who said, “Master, you may let your servant go in peace…

A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Lk. 2: 32)