7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY: LUKE: 6: 27-38
I would like to share with you a real story from the life of Mahatma Gandhi, the national hero of India. Gandhi was a man of faith and integrity. In his pursuit to win India’s freedom from the British, he was honored as a non-violent leader.
When the British were ruling India, Indians were not allowed to travel in the first class compartments of any trains. One day, Gandhi was traveling in a first class compartment and sat beside a British officer. Surprised – the officer stood up and slapped Gandhi’s cheek. Gandhi showed his other cheek and said: “Officer, you missed my left cheek … go ahead and make your day!” Gandhi, who was a well-known Hindu, had the courage and conviction to live the Gospel words we heard today: “To the one who strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek.” What a challenge!
Jesus gives us the most radical commandment: “Love your enemies…if you love only those who love you, what reward will be yours? Even sinners love those who love them.” Here, Jesus does not refer to a feeling, but to an attitude: a deliberate, conscious, free act of the will.
Today, we are living in a world where there is so much hated and revenge. We have created many enemies in the name of power and authority. Nations fight against nations and want to win battles over the others. Families fight within families and destroy the blessedness of their homes. Members of the same family keep grudges against each other for petty reasons.
The question of being loved involves two types of love. The first is the love of Jesus. Whether we are good or bad, Jesus loves us as we are. There is another love as well: the love of people for us. It is human love that surrounds us all the time. This human love is based on affirmation, sympathy, affection, encouragement, and the support that we receive from people such as: our parents, spouses, teachers, and friends. We hear people say: “Nobody loves me; look at what they do to me, how they have hurt me.” The sad part is that we choose to remember this hurt and rejection. We tend to nurse this abandonment but fail to celebrate the abundance of love. We should remember the smiles, the pats on the shoulders, the kind words, and the telephone calls, which we receive from our family friends.
In order to be able to love our enemies, we should be able to say “yes” to both kinds of love; God loves me and people love me. Say “yes” to love and then we will realize more and more that we are a loved people. Such self-awareness and self-affirmation of love will make us better persons in forgiving and loving our enemies. We are loved people. When you find it hard to love your enemies, say again and again to yourself: “I am a loved person.” Let us make this mantra a repeated prayer!