“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…give to everyone who asks of you, be merciful…stop judging…stop condemning…forgive.” REALLY?? This must be simply metaphorical or a suggestion – right? Jesus is on a roll in his Sermon on the Plain. He follows up what we heard last week (the ‘Blesseds and the woes’) with probably the hardest teaching yet. It is hard for us to embrace the notion of loving our enemies –not just leave them alone, not just respect them, but embrace them and love them. Our first reading gives us the clue as to why we should and must do this. David does not harm Saul (who was trying to kill David) when he finds him sleeping because Saul has been anointed by God. Jesus reminds us that everyone person – even our enemies – is a child of God. To harm even the worst of these is to harm God. To love them is to love God. Many of us do not have ‘true enemies’ – those who are out to kill us. But we can read enemies as a wide spectrum of those who think or are different than us. Those who we are uncomfortable with, shy away from, or try to avoid. These too are children of God whom we are to embrace.
As Vincentians, we are often called to embrace those who are different than us, who we might find hard to understand or embrace. In the poor, the suffering, the sick, the imprisoned, we find people living a reality we are not comfortable or familiar with. Often they are different than us and make us uncomfortable. Especially in home visits we can find ourselves going into places that make us think. But in each instance, we encounter Christ in the suffering for each person is a child of God. God teaches us to embrace them (and Him) if we open our hearts to them. Think of it this way – why wouldn’t we desire to encounter Christ as often as possible? Where ever Christ is – that is where I want to be! In a home visit; in ministering to the suffering; we encounter Christ. And in humility, we learn how to embrace and love those who are different, those who make us uncomfortable, and those who are our ‘enemies.’ Do I look to encounter Christ each time I minister to someone who is suffering? When I go on a home visit, do I view it as a visit to the home of Jesus?
Father, help me to see the presence of Christ in everyone I minister to. Let me seek to encounter Christ in each home visit in humility and compassion. Help me to set aside my judgments, my prejudices and my fears that I may offer mercy, forgiveness and my very self in help of others. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
Luke’s gospel this week does not mince words in his telling of the Beatitudes. Where Matthew says “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, Luke is more direct – “Blessed are the poor.” Matthew’s gospel seems to be more about attitudes while Luke is more about choice and action. The message is take care of the poor, take care of the hungry, take care of the weeping – or woe to you. In our first reading, we hear the message “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” and our Psalm tells us “blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” We have a choice to make not just about our attitudes but about our actions. If we trust in and follow the call of Jesus, we will find hope and salvation. Woe to those who choose another path.
As Vincentians, we recognize that the poor have much to offer us because they already recognize that trust in the Lord is all we have. We often see the generosity of the poor which is born out of humility and trust in God. They teach us not only how to receive but also how to give. Those who are suffering greatly are graced by God by His presence and faithfulness in their lives as He walks with them and shares in their pain. We have much to learn from the suffering when we come to them in humility, compassion and trusting in God to guide us. Do we come in true humility with trust and faith in God? Do we come with an open heart ready to learn from those we serve?
Father, help me to see your presence in those I minister to. Help me to embrace their pain and their crosses with them that I might be touched by their trust and faith in you. Help me to see their generosity to others so that I too might become more generous. Lord, walk with me as I walk with the poor, the hungry and the suffering. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
Our readings this week present to us three men called by God: Isaiah, Paul and Simon (Peter) – all of whom are certainly not the prototypical ‘candidates’ you would consider for doing God’s work. Isaiah was a man of unclean lips (certainly sinful); Paul was a persecutor of Christians; and Simon was a simple fisherman with a hot temper and a stubborn streak. Each of them would likely have been incapable of being competent in ministry to God, much less hugely successful, on their own initiative. But when called by God and led by God, they could not be stopped. We are nothing without Him, but everything with Him. They each humbly accepted God’s will for them and gave of themselves with total commitment to Hi. By accepting and cooperating with God’s will for them, they became the very prophets, saints and leaders that God wanted them to be and that we as Church needed.
As Vincentians, we are also called by God to minister to those who are suffering in His Church. We come from many backgrounds and have many deficiencies. I suspect many of us feel unequipped to do this work. But God will and does equip us with all we need when we open ourselves to his call to us. We can take heart from the example of these three who gave of themselves in total humility and selflessness and acted with great passion in cooperation with God. When we do, His strength and goodness will overshadow any deficiencies we have. Do I offer myself in complete humility to God? Do I discern and allow Him to guide all my actions that they may be fully aligned with His will for me and those I minister to? Do I embrace all He gives me with the passion of Peter, Paul and Isaiah?
Father, give me the courage to say yes to your call to me. Help me to recognize in true humility my total dependence on you, accepting that guided by you in cooperation with your will all things are possible. Allow me to submit in selflessness and with great zeal in ministering to all who you bring before me. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
Sometimes even truth and love are not well accepted in the places you would most expect them to be. Our readings this week carry a message of ‘the scriptures being fulfilled in the hearing.’ That doesn’t mean everyone likes what they hear. And Jesus tells us that ‘no prophet is accepted in his native place.’ When you proclaim the gospels – the truth of Jesus Christ and what he calls us to – many do not want to hear –even those you would think receptive. Our challenge is to hold fast to the truth, delivering it with love and kindness to those who will hear it.
As Vincentians, we will find some we minister to who do not want to hear the truth of their situation or the gospel. One of the virtues we are called to by St. Vincent is simplicity. For St. Vincent, simplicity meant speaking the truth by being open, honest and authentic in all our dealings. He also calls us to gentleness and humility. These speak to how we deliver truth – with kindness and patience reflecting the teachings and love of Christ. Do I seek to be honest with my neighbors in need even when the message is difficult to deliver? Do I discern God’s will in all things that I may act in the fullness of truth?
Father, help me to seek your will and truth in all situations. Give me the courage to be true to the virtue of simplicity when ministering to others. Grace me with the gentleness to deliver even difficult messages with compassion and mercy. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen