Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 20, 2022
Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church
Vernon, Texas

1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Luke 6:27-38

David refuses to be guided by the worldly or human understanding of “enemy” but instead sees Saul as God’s anointed. The presence of God is real in the world which He created and in which we live. David recognizes God’s presence in daily matters. Jesus underscores David’s perception by declaring not exactly that there are no enemies but that the category of enemy does not merit a different response than the response we offer to those whom we love. Pope Saint John XXIII was quoted as frequently stating, “There are enemies of the Church, but the Church has no enemies.”

We need to clearly recognize our enemies or those who deny and assault the Word of God or ignore it by living according to worldly standards so that we do not join their ranks. We need to pray to forgive and love them and for their conversion and for our own ongoing conversion. We need to be honest in noting that there are people who resent us because of the Gospel that they reject, but full honesty requires that we also closely examine our consciences to ensure that they do not resent us also for real offenses that we have given them. Where we are wrong, the truth of Jesus Christ requires us to seek forgiveness, especially of our enemies.

If the world is to be transformed by the Word of God, we need to face and defeat our enemies by disarming them with love and with the truth. This seems to be a timely message for us who live in a world moving toward a tyranny of the rich and woke. The government’s fragmented and discordant response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the censorship of communication by Big Tech, and the mainstream media’s political activism in reporting news are each totalitarian actions that frequently affect us all as people and as members of Christ’s Church. Part of our response in “loving our enemies” is to recognize the signs of the times in which we live and to be aware that we can and are called to bring the message of the Gospel to our world that seems increasingly moving toward a destruction of individual and personal identity, human nature, and free will.

David had the opportunity to dispatch Saul with a spear to the head, but he recognized that God’s plans were more important, albeit unknown in detail by David, than his own victory in a battle. Our involvement in the battle at hand will be successful to the extent that we articulate the truth and love our neighbor, including our enemies, and forgive those who persecute us for our faith. Forgiveness of our enemies is not a capitulation to their rejection of the truth or to the errors of their ways. Forgiveness of our enemies without self-righteousness manifests the truth of the Gospel of Jesus and His decisive victory over the lie of the devil that deceived our first parents in the Garden of Eden.

It is also impossible for us to love our enemies without prayer and especially without the grace of the Holy Spirit, including the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given and strengthened in our lives through the Sacrament of Confirmation. Our enemies and those of the Church seek to incite us to live in the emotion of anger and to retaliate, but Jesus is clear that He does not want us to do that; so, He offers us His grace to strengthen us to live as He has shown us how to live. We cannot outdo our enemies in violence, dishonesty, or in angry and destructive language. If we try to do so, we soon become an adversary of Christ and His Gospel and our own worst enemy.

Pope Francis once observed about today’s Gospel, “Jesus is well aware that loving enemies exceeds our possibilities, but this is why He became man: not to leave us as we are, but to transform us into men and women capable of a greater love, that of his Father and ours. This is the love that Jesus gives to those who ‘hear Him’. Thus, it becomes possible! With Him, thanks to His love, to His Spirit, we are able to love even those who do not love us, even those who do us harm. In this way, Jesus wants God’s love to triumph over hatred and rancor in every heart. The logic of love, which culminates in Christ’s Cross, is a Christian’s badge and induces us to meet everyone with the heart of brothers and sisters. But how is it possible to overcome human instinct and the worldly law of retaliation? Jesus provides the answer in the same Gospel passage: ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.’”

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