Love Your Enemies

Deacon Matt Ostdiek

Feb 20, 2022

Sunday 7, Ordinary Time - Year C 02/20/2022
Deacon Matt Ostdiek

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

Love Your Enemies

We just heard in Luke’s Gospel (Lk 6:27-28), Jesus telling His disciples:
• Love your enemies.
• Do good to those who hate you.
• Bless those who curse you.
• Pray for those who mistreat you.

WHAT? How on earth can I do that?

Who are my enemies? While enemy is such a strong word, I do sometimes
have issues with others.
• Usually, people different from me.
• People who think different.
• People I perceive as unfair, threatening, cruel, or violent.
• People I want to avoid.
• People I disagree with or simply do not understand.

How often have I been unkind or uncaring to someone else, or to a person I
did not even know? Do I ignore or refuse others? What about the poor,
homeless, elderly, suffering, grieving, the alcoholic or drug addict?
Are there people that I don’t consider enemies, but who I treat the same as an
enemy?

Would any of them consider me an enemy?

God created each person, and he loves each one of us unconditionally. He
allows sunlight and rain to fall on both the good and bad. He feeds us. He
forgives us. God does not condone hating any person He created. He created our
enemies.

In our second reading today (1Cor 15:45-49), Paul talks about the first
Adam, the natural earthly man. He also talks about the second Adam (Jesus), the
spiritual man. The earthly man is focused on himself. The spiritual man bears the
image of the heavenly one. All earthly life dies, but man receives the life-giving
Spirit. Through the Spirit, we can ascend to higher realms.

“The Lord is Kind and Merciful (Ps 103). …Not according to our sins does he
deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes. …He redeems your
life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.” As spiritual
beings, God expects us to grow beyond our earthly limits. Through the Spirit we
can see our enemies as God’s creation.

Jesus was human, and He knows this is hard for us. Yet he does not just say you
“should” love your enemies. Jesus says it as a command:
• Stop judging.
• Be merciful.

This command should be taken as a wakeup call. Loving your enemy does
not come naturally. This love requires self-determination and resolve of the will.
This intention to love demands:
• Letting go of our pride, ego, and defenses.
• Recognizing others as special in God’s eyes.
• Caring and praying for those who anger, threaten, or hurt us.
• Asking forgiveness when we hurt others.

Loving and trusting God, allows us to turn the other cheek.
In the first reading (1Sm 26), King Saul wants David killed. God provides
David more than one opportunity to eliminate this threat by in turn, killing Saul.
Through his love and trust in God, David chose not to kill Saul. David chose not to
kill the man God had anointed as king.

This sounds so radical to earthly humans. Do we contemplate the prayer
Jesus taught us? ………“Forgive us our trespasses and we forgive those who
trespass against us.” ………Do we practice what we pray?

The Virgin Mary appeared to three young African women in Kibeho,
Rwanda in the 1980’s. She warned that unless hearts changed, the hatred in
Rwanda would yield something terrible. Indeed, that hatred climaxed in 1994,
when approximately 800,000 Tutsis and were killed by Hutu militias. Much of the
killing involved neighbors killing neighbors, using machetes. Seventy percent of
the Tutsis people were killed. In less than 100 days, over 10% of the Rwandan
population was murdered.

Many of you know of Father Ubald from his many visits and healing prayer
at Our Lady of the Mountains. Father Ubald lost 80 members of his family,
including his mother in the Rwandan genocide. At the church where Father Ubald
pastored, 45,000 parishioners were killed. Father Ubald preached the necessity
of forgiveness. He forgave the man who killed his mother. Ubald even paid for
schooling that man’s daughter and son, while this murderer was imprisoned.
After the genocide, Father Ubald began a crusade teaching the necessity of
forgiveness to heal lives and to heal his county.

Ten years ago, my wife, Sandy and I had the opportunity to visit Rwanda
with Father Ubald, Katsey Long, and Paul Vogelheim. We witnessed the power
and need for forgiveness. As we spent time with Ubald, I began to see that we
were experiencing and interacting with a living saint.

As the trip came to an end, I realized that I had experienced both heaven
and hell in Rwanda. Near many of the Churches, were buildings packed with
bones of the people that had been murdered. Rwandans realized that preserving
memory is critical to avoid repeating the past. I saw people who appeared distant
and cold, still suffering from the genocide, both victims and those who
participated in murder.

But out of this darkness, I also witnessed the hope and love of people who
found the strength to forgive or had received the grace of being forgiven. Most
Rwandan’s have little material wealth, but these people radiated freedom and joy
through commitment to love, and to trust God. I will never forget the beautiful
singing and faith experienced when attending Mass with these people.

As I witnessed God’s grace shining through the darkness of a horrible
genocide, I thought of the many disagreements and hurts that had severed
relationships within my own family, enduring for years and even into decades.
Those hurting relationships back home were so petty compared to the suffering in
Rwanda.

I often ponder God’s plan for Father Ubald. He spent his last months on
earth suffering with lung damage caused by the Covid virus, far from home, in a
Salt Lake City hospital. The day before he died, Ubald was greatly shaken and
concerned watching the January 6th insurrection at our nation’s capital. Having
suffered through the power of hate in his life, Fr. Ubald was shocked to see such
harm and destruction occurring the U.S. He was upset knowing that the rest of
the free world follows the United States’ lead.

I feel the current demeaner and political climate is being driven by growing
hate and division. I believe God intentionally sent Fr. Ubald to preach forgiveness
in our country, the United States of America. Father Ubald showed us how to
love our enemies.

We are more than earthly creatures, we are spiritual beings, created in
God’s image. “The Lord is kind and merciful!” He expects the same from us.
Jesus tells us, “Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given
you, a good measure, and overflowing.

In the last sentence of today’s gospel reading, Jesus mentions the word
“measure” three times. “For the measure with which you measure will in turn be
measured out for you.” Reflect on what Jesus is telling us. Can we just ignore His
words?

Consider your relationships at home, at work, in your community, and even
at church. Today, think about those you consider enemies and those who might
consider you an enemy. Change requires commitment and begins with small
steps. This week, pick just one specific person and begin praying for reconciliation
for both them and for yourself. Then allow the Holy Spirit to help you reach out
to that person to begin forgiveness and healing. This week, be the spark that
illuminates darkness.