7TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – A
In his autobiography (now a major motion picture) “Long Walk to Freedom”, Nelson Mandela wrote: “I know that my country was not made to be a land of hatred. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin. People learn to hate. They can be taught to love for love comes more natural to the human heart.” It came from the heart of a man who was imprisoned for 21 years fighting for freedom for South Africa.
In his speech “I Have a Dream” Martin Luther King Jr says “There will be no permanent solution to the race problem until oppressed men develop the capacity to love their enemies. The darkness of racial injustice will be dispelled only by the light of forgiving love…”
When an evil thing is done against us, our natural tendency is to feel angry and if anger is not handled well, it is turned into hatred which spirals into thoughts of revenge and retaliation. When our hearts become bitter, it is obsessed with vindication and we want to get even if we are wronged. But there is the Christian way out of the vicious cycle of evil that continue to beset us and that is the way of love. The message of Jesus is quite radical and revolutionary because it challenges the deep seated nature of humanity and brings it back to that state it was created for. Gandhi, another champion of non-violence once said that if the world follow the rule of eye for an eye, then everyone will be blind; to follow the rule of tooth for a tooth, then everyone will be toothless.
Why do we have to love our enemies and pray for those who do evil things to us? Because there is nothing extraordinary in loving those who love us and in doing good to those who are good to us. We love our enemies because we used to be God’s enemies and yet He still loves us; we also do good things to those who are bad to us because God still gives us His blessings even if we were bad to Him. When we love our enemies and do good to bad people, we return the favour to God for loving us in spite of our sinfulness.
In the same manner to forgive those who have wronged us is not easy as eating pie. Many people choose not to forgive for some reasons only known to them. They continue to harbor grudges and nurse hatreds for a long time; some even carried them to the graves. Only those who have experienced forgiveness from God are able to translate the same forgiveness to others. The arteries of an unforgiving heart are blocked by hatred hence unable to breathe life and is susceptible to cardiac arrest. To forgive is like having an open heart surgery, giving the heart another chance to live and love.
To walk another mile, to turn the other cheek, to give our cloak: these are examples of transforming our nature from human to divine. Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi showed the world that it is possible to follow the way of Christ because it is only love that can give birth to love. The Filipino people during the EDSA Revolution in 1986 proved to the world that peaceful revolution is possible in breaking the vicious cycle of violence and oppression.
To be perfect just like our Father in heaven is not about ontological perfection which is being without defects; it is not sinlessness which are impossible ideals for us to achieve. To be perfect is rather becoming whole and undivided in spite of our imperfection, woundedness and brokenness. What distinguishes us from the other animals is our capacity to go beyond our nature because we just don’t simply live. What distinguishes the Christians from the rest of humanity is our ability to love and forgive in a culture of hatred and violence.