Thursday - Ordinary Time
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
you redeem us
and make us your children in Christ.
Look upon us,
give us true freedom
and bring us to the inheritance you promised.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 6,27-38
Jesus said to his disciples: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.
To anyone who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek as well; to anyone who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from someone who takes it.
Treat others as you would like people to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to get money back, what credit can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.
Instead, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. ‘Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.’
• In today’s Gospel we have the second part of the “Discourse of the Plain”. In the first part (Lk 6, 20-26), Jesus addresses himself to the disciples (Lk 6, 20). In the second part (Lk 6, 27-49), he addresses himself “to you who listen to me”, that is, the great crowds of poor and sick people, who had come form all parts (Lk 6, 17-19).
• Luke 6, 27-30: Love the enemies! The words that Jesus addresses to these people are demanding and difficult: to love the enemies, not to curse them, to present the other cheek to anyone who slaps you on one cheek, and do not protest or complain when somebody takes what is ours. Taken literally, these phrases seem to favour the rich who rob. But not even Jesus observes them literally. When the soldier struck him on the face, he did not offer the other cheek but rather reacted firmly: “If there is some offence in what I said, point it out, but if not why do you strike me?” (Jn 18, 22-23). Then, how are these words to be understood? The following verses help us to understand what Jesus wants to teach us.
• Luke 6, 31-36: The Golden Rule! to imitate God. Two phrases of Jesus help us to understand what he wants to teach. The first phrase is the so called Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would like people to treat you!” (Lk 6, 31). The second phrase is: “Be merciful as your Father in Heaven is merciful!” (Lk 6, 36). These two phrases indicate that Jesus does not want simply to change the situation, because nothing would change. He wants to change the system. The novelty which he wants to construct comes from the new experience of God the Father, full of tenderness who accepts all! The words of threat against the rich cannot be the occasion of revenge on the part of the poor! Jesus demands the contrary attitude: “Love your enemies!” Love cannot depend on what I receive from others. True love should want the good of others, independently of what he or she does for me. Love should be creative, because that is how God’s love is for us: “Be merciful, as your Heavenly Father is merciful!” Matthew says the same thing with other words: “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (Mt 5, 48). Never will anyone be able to say: Today I have been perfect as the Father in Heaven is perfect! I have been merciful as the Father in Heaven is merciful”. We will always be below the measure which Jesus has placed before us.
In Luke’s Gospel, the Golden Rule says: “Treat others as you would like people to treat you!” (Lk 6, 31). Matthew, in his Gospel, gives a different formulation: “Treat others as you would like others to treat you” And he adds: “That is the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7, 12). Practically, all religions in the whole world have the same Golden Rule with a diverse formulation. This is a sign that a universal intuition or desire is expressed which comes from the bottom of the human heart.
• Luke 6, 37-38: “Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and there will be gifts for you; a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you”. These are four advices: two in a negative form, do not judge and do not condemn; and two in positive form: to forgive and to give an abundant measure. When it says: “there will be gifts for you”, Jesus refers to the treatment which God wants to have with us. But when our way of treating others is mean, God cannot use with us the abundant and overflowing measure that he would want to use.
Celebrate the visit of God. The Discourse of the Plains or the Sermon on the Mountain, from the beginning, leads the listeners to make a choice, to opt, in favour of the poor. In the Old Testament, several times, God placed people before this same choice, blessing or curse. People were given the freedom to choose: “Today I call heaven and earth to witness against you: I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 30,19).It is not God who condemns, but the people themselves according to the choice that they make between life and death, good or evil. These moments of choosing are moments of the visit of God to his people (Gn 21, 1; 50, 24-25); Ex 3, 16; 32, 34; Jr 20, 10; Ps 65, 10; Ps 80, 15; Ps 106, 4). Luke is the only Evangelist who uses this image of the visit of God (Lk 1, 68. 78; 7, 16; 19, 44; Ac 15, 16). For Luke it is the visit of God which places people before the choice between blessing or curse: “Blessed are you who are poor” and “Alas for you, the rich!” But people do not recognize the visit of God (Lk 19,44).
4) Personal questions
• Do we look at life and at persons with the same look of Jesus?
• What does it mean today “be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful”?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh, you examine me and know me,
you know when I sit,
when I rise,
you understand my thoughts from afar.
You watch when I walk or lie down,
you know every detail of my conduct. (Ps 139,1-3)