Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
September 11th is a day on which many of us end up telling the story of where we were “when the towers fell.” The dismay, the horror, the anger; many of these feelings may still be very clear in our minds. Perhaps recent events in the world—civil war in Syria, persecution and massacre by ISIS, and so on—stir these fears and that past anger anew.
So it is fitting that today’s Gospel begins with Jesus telling His disciples—us—to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, curse us and mistreat us. Granted, many of us will never experience the kind of persecution our Eastern Christian brethren are experiencing as we read this, but we all could likely make a short list of people in our lives who, on some level or another, qualify as “enemies.” What Jesus asks of us is very hard, and He tells us what this love looks like: taking maltreatment, lending and giving generously with no expectation of return; in short, giving our enemies the same treatment we wish they were giving us. Why would Jesus ask His fellow Kingdom laborers the impossible? Because this is precisely how Jesus loves each of us.
How often have we, in being enemies to our brothers and sisters in Christ, struck Jesus on the cheek, taken but never given back, and committed all sorts of other callous acts against Him? It is far easier to love those who love us, but Jesus tells us this is not the love He is asking of us, for in such situations we often love in reciprocation, either returning what love we’ve been shown or loving in expectation of return. Is this, in the fullest sense, love? Is this how Jesus loves us from the Cross? No; He loves us regardless of our love for Him. He tells us to love after the example of His own love, expecting a return not from the field in which we sow laboriously and oftentimes seemingly without fruit, but rather because we are the fruit of the Master’s own labor and we ought to love others as He has loved us (John 13:34). To love God is its own reward for, as He tells us today, “…the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” If we love God with our whole hearts—loving Him especially by loving others—can you imagine, then, what our Heaven might be like receiving the love of God’s whole heart in return?