Today our Gospel is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching that began last week when we heard a reading on the beatitudes. This week Luke parallels the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Our readings today are linked by one main theme; the power of our Christian love, which is shown through unconditional forgiveness. Through these readings we are reminded of the essential virtues and elements of our Christian life. They include mercy, compassion, loving God, and our neighbour. The readings also instruct us about the choices we make. The right choices lead us to God, and the wrong ones can break our relationship with Him and with one another.
In our Gospel Jesus’ sets out his moral teaching about correct choices in our human relationships, placing special emphasis on the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This Golden Rule is explained through a set of commands: “Love your enemies…Do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you.” For Jesus, love is a fundamental attitude that seeks out another’s good. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to be merciful as God our Father is merciful. Jesus challenges us to do for others what God does for us. “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” He concludes by telling us to stop judging and start forgiving.
Now I’m sure we all find it easy to be with others, friends, family, work colleagues when they are polite, friendly, and amenable. But sometimes we find ourselves in situations when the behaviours, attitudes and the actions of others are upsetting or hurtful. Maybe you can relate to this and recall times when his has happened to you? What did you do? Did you react unkindly, or did you decide to give them a second chance, a third chance hoping things will change, hoping your generosity of spirit will be rewarded? This is what Jesus is asking of us when he says turn the other cheek and bless those who curse you. This instruction though is nuanced. This is because there are times when one has to stand up and challenge behaviours, for example when we need to stand up to bullies, to stand up to injustice and to stand up to racism.
So, the ethic that Jesus presents us in the Gospel can seems like an impossible task: give when asked and to do good to those who hate us. The more we follow Jesus’ command and open our hearts to each other, the more we open our hearts to what God is offering us. God in his goodness will ensure that the reward we receive will be a “full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over… because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back”.