Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

By comparison to what will be treated below, it is remarkably easy for us to show compassion and charity toward persons who are in desperate need: to give money or volunteer hours to a local agency that shelters single mothers or recovering addicts or people recently released from prison; to volunteer time and energy at the downtown soup kitchen or daytime shelter for the homeless; to secretly drop a large amount of money into the Salvation Army bucket or the Saint Vincent de Paul fund or poor box.

But what about this message of mercy and justice and love, from Leviticus:

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.

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Don’t stop reading; this next gospel message may just be for you, as it certainly is for this writer:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

that you may be children of your heavenly Father,

for he makes the sun rise on the bad and the good,

and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?

Our enemies are those whose presence we avoid at all costs; those with whom we definitively judge that reconciliation is simply impossible; those who are so different from us, our way of life, our values, that we spew insults and injuries about them behind their backs or simply avoid giving them any space in our mind or conversations all together; those whom we decided are undeserving of our love, our forgiveness, our mercy, our compassion.

My prayer today –– and perhaps yours, too –– is to pray for those who have persecuted me, are persecuting me, and will persecute me.  I ask God to help me prayerfully imagine the resurrected Lord Jesus –– bearing the wounds of injury from those who were against him, who failed him, who found his sayings difficult and returned to their former ways of life, who betrayed him in his moment of desperate need, who fell asleep in the last hours of his earthly life when he wanted them to stay awake, keep watch, and pray, and, in bearing these wounds, welcoming all of them, and me too, to the supper of the Lamb: “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb!”

Can I imagine myself sharing in the one bread and the one cup of salvation, to which Christ has called us both?  If I cannot at least glimpse at that possibility, it is next to impossible that fellowship around the dining room table could ever happen.

February 23rd, 2014