Saturday, February 20, 2016
Reflection: Matthew 5:43-48
Saturday of the First Week of Lent - Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus used extremely strong language in today’s Gospel. He was talking with his disciples and he hit them right where they live. He instructed his disciples that they were to love their enemies. Jesus was being completely countercultural because culture in which Jesus lived was extremely violent. They nailed criminals to the cross and imposed many other cruel punishments. True, in our culture we also punish criminals with the death penalty and life imprisonment. However, we strive to do it in a somewhat humane way – such as it is.
Jesus notes that it is easy for people to love the individuals who love them, but then goes on to challenge his disciples to pray for the individuals who persecute them, whether physically or emotionally. Jesus challenges his disciples to love everyone.
We are not to be selective about whom we love. If we don’t love each and every person, we are not much better than the criminals. It is fairly easy to love most people. However, even the individuals we love get on our nerves at times. Nor do we always agree. Yet if we care about them, we desire to stay in relationship with them. So we strive to work out the problems and difficulties. We want to stay in relationship.
Today Jesus is telling us that we are to love everyone — not just the people who love us. The reality is that we won’t like everyone every day of the week. Nor will others like us on some days. However, this condition doesn’t mean that this destroys our love and care for the other. The love about which Jesus is speaking has the ability to transcend the daily irritations, disagreements, and petty arguments. Love enables us to focus much better. Yet, we still have the ability to love others – all others – even the people we may not like. Today Jesus reminds us that each and every person is lovable – even the one who gets on our very last nerve. We have to choose between loving like Jesus did or allowing our emotions to control us. What will we choose today?