Meditation and Questions for Reflection and Group Discussion
(Leviticus 19:1-2,17-18; Psalm 103:1-4,8,10,12-13; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48)
Godly Perfection, Loving and Forgiving our Enemies
Be perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Perfect? Isn’t that impossible? Let’s take a look.
Before Jesus spoke these words, a workable system was already in place: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Deuteronomy 19:21). This system was based on a kind of justice that helped to limit retribution. No double or triple damage claims were allowed. I couldn’t kill someone if he simply stole my camel. The most he would have to do is lose one of his camels to make everything “even.” But Jesus wanted more than this equal-retribution approach. He wanted mercy to become the law of the land.
This new standard can seem unfair because it involves turning the other cheek, going an extra mile, and loving our enemies. We don’t always do this with our family members; how are we supposed to do it with people who hate us?
When we are at odds with someone, unforgiveness is usually at the heart of the matter. So Jesus calls us to forgive. Of course, he doesn’t expect us to feel the same amount of affection for everyone. But he does want us to treat everyone, even our enemies and those who have hurt us, as God treats them: with compassion, mercy, and patience. He wants us to pray for them and to wish them well.
This kind of love not only releases grace to the other person; it also releases God’s grace upon us. Recent psychological studies back this up, in fact. They show that holding unforgiveness can lead to depression. It can fill us with resentment, make us cynical, and even affect our physical health. But people who practice forgiveness tend to be healthier and more at peace. So the more we try to follow Jesus’ teaching, the more we benefit as well!
Do you want to be perfect? Try your best to forgive. It may seem impossible, but with God’s help, all things are possible.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your mercy and peace!”
(Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing us to use meditations from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission. The Word Among Us Mass Edition contains all the readings and a meditation for each of the daily and Sunday Masses.)Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- In the first reading from Leviticus 19, the Lord commands us to: “Be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy.” He then provides some commands on how to be holy including: “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart” and “You shall love your enemy as yourself.” How are you doing in living up to these commands? What steps can you take to do better?
- In the Responsorial Psalm, we hear these words regarding the Lords forgiveness and mercy: “He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills” and “He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.” In what ways have you experienced the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy?
- In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that we are “the temple of God” and “the Spirit of God dwells in you.” He goes on to say that “the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” What role does the Holy Spirit, the love of God poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5), play in how you love and forgive others?
- The Gospel reading presents us with these daunting commands: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In what way is it necessary to personally know and experience the Lord’s love and forgiveness, in order to love, forgive, and pray for those who have wronged you? How has this impacted your own ability to forgive others as the Lord has forgiven you?
- The meditation ends with these words: “Do you want to be perfect? Try your best to forgive. It may seem impossible, but with God’s help, all things are possible.” Jesus’ command to be perfect appears right after he explains how to treat our enemies. Why do you think that how we treat our enemies can help us move toward that daunting goal of perfection?
- Take some time now to pray that you would experience more deeply your heavenly Father’s transforming love and to pray for the grace to forgive your enemies. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.