Craig M. McMahon, O.S.A.
Saint Augustine Priory
Lv 19: 1-2, 17-18
Ps 103: 1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
1 Cor 3: 16-23
Mt 5: 38-48
Human wisdom can design a machine to illuminate the darkest of earth’s night sky, yet God’s wisdom can shine upon the soul, and transform a human heart. And those are the moments when the voice of Wisdom cries out all around us, for that Wisdom is the grace of God. But yet, at times, does it not feel that God’s wisdom fails to translate into our lived experience? … Offer no resistance, turn the other cheek, love your enemies… Doesn’t our own sin and failure lead us to believe that it is simply impossible to follow the Gospel of Christ? After all, our actions are easy to rationalise: self-defence, keeping an extra coat, holding a grudge and really going after those we disagree with. It all seems so natural, and from certain vantage points, even justified.
Fr. Daniel Berrigan S.J., the famous, if not controversial, anti-war activist, said ‘If you can’t do this without becoming bitter, then don’t do it. Do it only if you can do it with a mellow heart. Do it only if you can be sure you won’t end up hating those who arrest you.’ Fr Daniel was able to embrace ‘the other’, even in the most disagreeable of situations. As individuals, as a parish, as a nation, as a Church: Do we offer forgiveness to those with whom we disagree? Does it even matter? Why yes, yes it does. It matters a lot.
The command to love our enemies is about the withering of the soul that comes with hatred. Further still, the command of love is not just about our enemies, it is also about our own soul. When we carry hatred and fail to forgive, it blocks out the fullest of God’s love, and that influences every relationship we have.
I often think (and hope!) that the redemption offered by Christ is a process whereby I hand over that which needs redeeming, and He brings me in a little bit closer, revealing His plan, step-by-step, day-by-day, and when we pray for our enemy, when we forgive, when we react differently than the 99.99% of our inside wants to… it is the Wisdom of God crying out to us, saying ‘If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise.’
My brothers and sisters: when we turn our anger, bitterness, distrust and hatred over to God - the transmission of those things stop. It might be considered foolish by human standards… but when we turn the other cheek, when we give to one who begs, when we love our enemy, no matter how small in it may seem, we move, and the world along with us, one step closer to God, and in doing so the litany of the impossible that is the Sermon on Mount, through the grace of God, becomes possible.