Christian Love Has No Boundaries
Paul asks his Colossians to express in deeds the life they have received in baptism. The most precious gift they have received is love. Love binds into one in perfect harmony all the virtues they have received and also binds together all Christians as one people of God: they are now one body. They can sing out their love and gratitude to God in songs of thanksgiving.
Love does not rest on sympathies alone. A gospel-love, a love of faith, has no boundaries. One who loves gives more than asked and loves the “unlovable,” including enemies. It does not judge nor condemn, is always ready to be compassionate and forgiving. When we look at all these implications, we have to confess with shame that we are far from this ideal proposed to us by our Lord. How far are we in this world the sign of God’s own love?
1 Reading: Colossians 3:12-17
Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one Body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 150:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. (6) Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the LORD in his sanctuary,
praise him in the firmament of his strength.
Praise him for his mighty deeds,
praise him for his sovereign majesty. R.
Praise him with the blast of the trumpet,
praise him with lyre and harp,
Praise him with timbrel and dance,
praise him with strings and pipe. R.
Praise him with sounding cymbals,
praise him with clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath
praise the LORD! Alleluia. R.
Alleluia: 1 John 4:12
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If we love one another,
God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Luke 6:27-38
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 also your Father is merciful. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
Many of the injunctions found in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount are found here in Luke. We are told in very concrete terms what the love of enemies means. Blessings for curses, prayers for mistreatment, good cheek for injured cheek, tunic for cloak. To love those who love us is common even among nonbelievers. To lend money and expect repayment has no virtue attached at all. In short, do good because it is the right thing to do, without expecting anything in return. In addition, be non-judgmental and forgiving. God will repay you in even greater measure.
Paul tells the Colossians what it means to walk in the Lord’s way. Realize that you are loved by Christ; this means compassion, kindness, humility, patience, and, in a special way, forgiveness (as the Lord has forgiven you). It means, above all, to be clothed in love, which is the keystone of all perfection. This will mean a sharing in the peace that Christ brings. It means gratitude expressed in hymns and songs. And, thus enveloped by Christ, every act of the day becomes a prayer of thanks to God the Father through Christ, his Son.
Before such a program of action, we would have to admit that we all fall short. But we must never give up. There is always an area that calls for improvement. Meditation on the gospel ethic is not meant to lead to discouragement. God understands our weakness. But it does mean that we are content with the status quo. There is always that someone out there with whom we should make peace. There is that family whose monthly income is below the subsistence level. There is always some stab of conscience. Today’s reflection may just lead us to do something about it.
“If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Love your enemies!” It is something very difficult to do, but it is at the core of Christianity. Let us ask the Lord for strength, for a Christian love deep enough to make us capable of this. May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!