Luke 6:27-38
Heavenly Peace
by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

Jesus said to his disciples: "To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.  For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do the same.  If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.  But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Our Catholic faith often calls us to act against the grain of our secular world, to live a countercultural life.  When we consider what courageous witness we provide in our current age, perhaps the first things that come to mind would be our insistence on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, or the goodness and beauty of marriage and family according to natural law.  In this context, the words "stop judging" from today's Gospel usually sound like an accusation from a secular world that wishes our witness to fall silent.  Yet, I ould suggest that these very words, along with the teachings that surround them, represent something deeply countercultural.

The world we inhabit, as advanced as it may have grown technologically, and as many moral hurdles as it may have claimed to overcome, remains a world suffused with a certain basic logic: we should treat our friends well, and have no obligation to treat those who harm us with any affection.  How many who claim to love all actually pray with honest hearts for the good of those who have wronged them?  How many of us who consider ourselves good people actually work at showing good to those who disagree with us, who stand against the things we believe, or who might actually hate us or people like us?  How many of us find it easy to forgive legitimate offenses without falling into the traps of holding a grudge in secret or giving up on our own self-worth?  At the very least, the way we as Americans tend to speak about our political and social opponents gives us away for followers of worldly logic rather that Christian teaching.  When Christ commands that we must love our enemies and stop judging souls, this does no so much represent the common sense of all decent people as it represents a challenge to ur innate sense of justice and self-respect.

So, how then do we follow the Lord's command o love our enemies?  When our nature itself cries ut that those who do wrong must be punished, and that no one should get away with causing harm to another, how do we respond with Christian charity?  Christ himself answers in telling us that we are to "be merciful, just as (our) Father is merciful."

How is the father merciful?  The Father is merciful because he is almighty and absolutely at peace within himself.  He does not need to defend himself from harm, and so he can be free in his mercy.  Jesus has access to this freedom as the eternal son of the Father.  He is at peace in the Father's love for him and knows that the Father will set all things right, no matter what, and so Jesus himself, even in his human nature, is free to be merciful in overabundance.  Indeed, in the midst of his Passion, he sees and knows who he is before the Father, and so can ask in strength: "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."

If we wish to obey Christ in loving our enemies, we must likewise embrace the Father's love.  As children of God through adoption, we inherit Jesus' access to the Father.  We have received the same love that the Father has for his son.  Thus, we can forgive and love even those who mistreat us, not out of weakness, not as doormats, but out of the strength that comes from being royal children of heaven.  In the midst of a world full of fear, anger, accusation, bitterness and obsession with exacting justice, hat heavenly peace that forgives might be the most countercultural witness of all.