It is Radical-Love Your Enemies: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time February 19,2017
In our Gospel today Jesus instructs us in some of the most difficult ‘rules’ to live by:”….Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….” (Matthew 5: 44). As we think about the polarized political climate of the times, the crimes against love and people, and the many acts of hatred and violence, or even about the difficult events in our own lives we marvel that an answer could be nonviolent resistance that makes its point yet commands respect, whatever the consequences to us. In the homily below Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP of Toledo, Ohio shows us how these rules for living holy and justice seeking lives are akin to the Rules For Radicals of Saul Alinsky. Indeed, loving as Jesus did is radical and radical loving often means radical disobedience to power and to hate. Leviticus 19: 18 tells us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” to live out God’s command “Be holy, For I the Lord,your God am holy”. This does not mean holier-than-thou it means radical loving and as Jesus translates, that includes loving our enemies. Paul, in I Corinthians 3:16-23 tells us that we are holy, we are the temples of the living God. God will protect God’s holy temple and we are not to act as if we are wise, rather let God use us as we are, embracing what seems foolish to others. And what could seem more foolish or actually be wiser than loving your enemies? O, God of Love, help us to learn how to love with your radical love and to follow your rules for radicals. In the name of Jesus the Christ, who lived this we pray. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP, Fort Myers, Florida –Picture Below the Good Shepherd Youth under the words of Dr. MLK,Jr. with Pastors Judy Beaumont and Judy Lee at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Rev. Beverly Bingle’s Challenging Homily:
The book of Leviticus tells us to “be holy as God is holy”
and gives us some specific ideas of what that looks like.
Don’t hang on to hate.
Don’t store up bad feelings.
Don’t try to get revenge.
Don’t hold a grudge.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Today’s psalm describes the holiness of God that we are to be like.
God pardons all our iniquities, comforts our sorrows,
redeems our life from destruction, crowns us with kindness.
God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in kindness.
Then Jesus tells us
that we have to go beyond what the law requires.
Scripture scholars tell us that this part of the Sermon on the Mount
is among the things Jesus almost certainly said.
He really said not to react violently against people who do evil.
To turn the other cheek.
If you’re sued for your shirt, to give them your coat, too.
If you’re forced to go a mile, to go along for two.
Give to everyone who begs or wants to borrow from you.
He really did say those things.
Is Jesus telling us to be doormats?”
Not at all.
It helps to have a cultural context for this passage.
Most people are right-handed,
so if someone slaps me across the right cheek,
it would have to be back-handed,
the way a powerful person
slaps someone they consider below them,
meant to be demeaning and to dishonor the person.
The expectation is that I will be slap back the same way,
and, in first century Palestine, I would get my honor back.
But if I turn the other cheek,
that person will have to hit me as an equal.
Turning the other cheek speaks loud and clear:
I will not be dishonored,
and I will not be violent.
Then there’s the shirt and coat part of today’s reading.
Jesus’ listeners would have known
that Exodus says you have to return the coat before sunset
because it’s the only covering the poor people have.
Handing over both the shirt and the coat would leave you naked.
You would make it obvious that your oppressor is an evil person.
There’s also a cultural context to help us understand the extra mile.
Roman law allowed the occupying army
to force people to carry their backpack for one mile
but no farther.
Instead of growling or grumbling about it,
Jesus suggests, go two miles.
His audience knew
that the soldier would get in trouble for violating Roman law.
Jesus reminds me a lot of Saul Alinsky,
a community organizer who put together actions
aimed at bringing about racial equality.
In his last book in 1971, Rules for Radicals,
Alinsky wrote that the threat of an action
was sometimes enough to produce results.
My favorite was his plan
to have large numbers of well-dressed African Americans occupy the
urinals and toilets at O’Hare Airport
for as long as it took to bring the City of Chicago
to the bargaining table.
Like Alinsky, Jesus tells people
to act in ways that the opponent does not expect
and to act in ways that will make the oppressor’s evil visible.
Jesus was teaching an oppressed people
the principles of creative nonviolence.
His teachings inspired Mahatma Gandhi
to his famous salt march
that exposed oppressive British taxation.
His teachings led Martin Luther King, Jr.,
to his creative nonviolent practices
of bus boycotts and restaurant sit-ins.
We are called to follow his teachings.
We’re called to love, but there are some people I don’t like.
There’s injustice, people doing wrong to others,
sometimes even to us.
It’s hard not to hate them when they hate us.
Hard to keep being gracious and forgiving them
when they misunderstand us, lie to us,
oppose us, mistreat us, threaten us.
Trying to love them is exhausting,
but we are clearly called to love.
It’s easier if we do it Jesus’ way.
We know that an executive order banning Muslims is evil.
We know that the poor live in neighborhoods
where the rental houses poison the kids with lead paint
and the stores don’t carry healthy food at fair prices.
We know that obscenity and a swastika on a garage door is evil.
We know that the poor and the middle class
carry a heavier tax burden than the rich.
We know that polluting the Maumee River and Lake Erie is evil.
And we know that we,
and our friends and neighbors, and our enemies,
are temples of God.
The Spirit dwells in all of us.
So we set out to love as God loves.
We try to love everyone.
And we set out to show our love for all people the way Jesus did.
We try to show them better ways.
We pray for them.
We help them when they’re in need.
We speak up when they’re doing wrong.
We protest and make phone calls and write letters.
When they’re oppressing people,
taking actions that bring evil to others,
we try to treat them as we would want to be treated.
We enter into dialogue.
We call them to right actions.
We pray for them,
No matter how much we hate their ideas or their actions,
we love them
and treat them with respect.
We are their neighbors.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006