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Pastor's Letter 20220220 - 20 February 2022 - Growth in the Image of God

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February 20th, 2022

Seventh Sunday-Ordinary Time

A Message from Father Michael


Today’s Theme:  Growth in the Image of God” 

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Those who may say there is little relevance in Scripture might do well to reflect on today’s First Reading (1 Samuel 26: 2-23.)  William Shakespeare took its reference when he wrote:  “The quality of mercy is not strained…it is twice blessed—blessing him that gives and him that takes…” (Merchant of Venice.)  We read that King David showed mercy to Saul, allowing him to live, when he might have justly killed him, taking the law into his own hands.  Unwilling to repay Saul’s evil with his own, David is seen as a forerunner of Jesus, representing the love and mercy of the Father for a sinful humanity.  He also reminds all believes that, just as punishment is the Lord’s prerogative, so it is the Lord, Who will reward those who remain just and faithful.    


Paul’s lengthy First Letter to the Corinthians, from which we have read these past several weeks, shows him working diligently at correcting a variety of abuses and misunderstandings that had occurred since his departure (1 Corinthians 15: 45-49.)   Christians throughout the ages have benefited from his excellent insights on an array of topics: love, morality, salvation, community, conscience, charisms and the Holy Eucharist. In today’s conversation about the natural and heavenly natures of man, Paul links us to our Blessed Lord, through Whom all believers are saved.  His risen glory is a pledge of our own. As were the Corinthians, we are called to open ourselves body and soul to receive the gifts made available to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection.


Many friendships are based on “reciprocity”—doing something for someone in expectation of them doing something for us—dinner invitations, gifts, favors, and even compliments, for example.  In today's Gospel (Luke 6: 27-38,) Jesus challenged His followers to engage in relationships that defied this pattern of reciprocity, calling those who would be His disciples to love one another and even enemies, with the heart and mind of God, Himself.  Continuing last week’s selection of The Beatitudes, Jesus raises the love shown toward one’s enemies from a concept to a command!  His urging of our giving love to them is measured not by the attractiveness or goodness of the recipient, but by the goodness of the giver…graciously given without measuring the deservedness of the one loved.  It is this love that God has given to us, that is ordained to save the world.  Incapable of fully reciprocating the love, compassion and generosity of God, those who are the beneficiaries of such goodness must show their gratitude in love, mercy and generosity for one another.  

Loving Our Enemies

For most of us, it’s a difficult concept to even consider “loving” our enemies….  After all, “they are enemies,” for a specific reason, in most instances.  By definition, they would seek to do us harm, if given a chance, so at best, we would consider it prudent to at least be “wary” of them—not “love” them….

 But Jesus taught all His disciples, “to be compassionate…not to judge…not to condemn…and to treat others as we would be treated,” right?  So, as “believers,” and His disciples, it is incumbent upon us to follow His precepts—including “loving” our enemies….

Jesus challenges us to respond to darkness with light.  To respond with what is worst in the other with what is best in us.  The most important issue today is how to resist evil without doing further evil in the process. 

Most of us think we have done our Christian duty if we refrain from doing harm to our enemy.  But Jesus asks more of us—to “love them!”  

Even on a human level, Jesus’ teaching makes sense.  The escalation of evil can be stopped only by one who humbly absorbs it, without passing it on.  (One is reminded of how, in “practical jokes,” people are conditioned to repay their perpetrators with ever more severe “jokes.”)  Revenge and retaliation only add darkness to darkness.  By adopting a vindictive attitude, we become poisoned by hatred.  We use enormous amounts of energy by hating; revenge might satisfy one’s rage, but it leaves the heart empty.  It’s vital to keep our hearts free from hatred.  

In contrast, love releases extraordinary energy in us.  Still, loving someone who hates you is one of the most difficult things in the world.  Yet true love is love of the difficult, and the unlovable.  Mercy is stronger and more God-like than vengeance.  

It’s a constant struggle to overcome feelings of bitterness and revenge that well up inside us, and can keep welling up, when we are badly treated by another.  Forgiveness is never easy.  We must struggle for it, daily; pray for it, daily; and win it…daily.  Resentments can “smolder” for a long time.  Prayer is the only answer.  Anger cannot continue to develop where there is humble, sincere, meditative prayer.  

The “Golden Rule”

In Jesus’ time, scales to weigh produce were not used in the marketplace.  Rather, vessels were used to measure—a “panful” of wheat, for instance.  But, of course, a “panful” could vary significantly from merchant to merchant.  A miserly one might fill the pan “loosely,” and not “to the top.”  A generous one would do the opposite, perhaps shaking it down to create more space, and then, “top it off,” for the customer.  

It’s easy to “give” to a friend or to someone from whom we can expect a return of some kind.  It doesn’t call for virtue in us to do this.  Jesus said, “Even sinners do as much.”  If we love those who love us, we are not doing anything exceptional, and shouldn’t look for a reward for doing so.  

The real test is giving to an enemy or to someone from whom we have no hope in getting a return.  This is the ideal that Jesus puts before us in today’s Gospel.  Loving our enemies and doing good without hope of return is an imitation of the goodness and compassion of that we ascribe to the perfection of God.  It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible….

The more we open our hearts to others—the more we open our hearts to the ideal we believe to be “God-like”—the more we approach being like God, ourselves.  Although it is sometimes impossible to comprehend, in the “heat of the moment,” the vessel with which we “give” to others is that in which we will “receive” from God.  

Most people today, in one context or another, have heard about “karma.”  It is an ancient principle from Hinduism and Buddhism that postulates, “the sum of a person’s actions in this state of existence decides their fate in future existence.”  It has become part of our lexicon, suggesting that “what comes around, goes around.”  We cannot do “cost accounting” on many actions we take.  The results, rewards, retributions, etc., may come long afterward.  So, if our focus is always upon doing the “best we can” in the moment—not tempered on “what’s in it for us,” but rather doing “what’s best in a particular situation”—we will be on the right path.  Then we can expect “good karma,” or, as Christian believers, we can expect that the Lord, in His goodness, will see to it that the blessings we have bestowed on others will be returned to us, “a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.”  

  May God Richly Bless You!

The Four-Way Test ( of everything we think, say or do:)

1.  Is it the Truth?

2.  Is it Fair to all concerned?

3.  Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?

4.  Is it Beneficial to all concerned?

(Rotary International)

Due to technical difficulties, there is no Holy Mass recording today.

We Will be Your People.docx

Edited by Father Michael
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