7th  Sunday C            –           Building Bridges                                                                                                             

‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…”  Jesus continues his sermon from last week with injunctions that appear to be humanly impossible. “You will have a great reward” Jesus promises. This may sound unrealistic to some, especially if their faith is weak and a heartfelt knowledge and experience of being loved by God is missing from their lives.  Our living faith, trust and encounter with Christ can lead us towards mending bridges with those who have taken advantage of us and treat us badly. Mending bridges is the difficult thing and is normally be done slowly, with some delays, and only at the rate of one span at a time.

At the end of his life, Gandhi claimed that he no longer hated anybody. He hated the oppressive system of colonialism, but he couldn’t hate the people who implemented it. “Mine is not an exclusive love. If I love Muslins and Hindus because their ways are pleasing to me, I shall soon begin to hate them when their ways displease me. A love that is based on the goodness of those whom I love is a mercenary affair” – Louis Fisher, “The Essential Gandhi,” 193. Nelson Mandela walked without any feelings of recrimination out of the prison in which he had been confined for twenty-seven years. When he came to power he initiated a process of reconciliation rather than seeking revenge.

“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”  Compassion is the ability to experience or feel something together with someone else. Jesus had a deep personal sense of the pain experienced by those he cured. Research shows that we humans are hardwired for compassion. It is part of the structure of our humanity. A new-born infant reacts out of empathy when it returns its mother’s smile. Looking at something from another’s perspective is a developmental milestone and helps us understand others. Bernard of Clairvaux points out that compassion grows from the humble knowledge and truth about ourselves and enables us to reverse ingrained tendencies and cultivate new ones – Bernard, “Three Degrees of Truth.”

“Give and there will be gifts for you in full measure.”  As Christians, we love because we believe we are loved – unconditionally and in full measure. Our awareness of God’s love for the whole universe and everything in it is key to being Christian. Our first task, if you like, is to tune into God’s love. The reception will often be ‘static’, but once received the taste of divine love will not easily be forgotten. It touches a chord that awakens us to live more fully in the present. Jesus’ compassion for the sick, crippled, possessed, the blind, the hungry and the lost awakened them to the full measure of life’s giftedness.

 

 

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