I once heard a preacher say that the Ten Commandments were ten ways of God saying, “Don’t hurt yourself. Please, don’t hurt yourself.” A similar thing might be said of the instructions presented in today’s gospel: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well.”
Is this the Lord’s way of saying, “Don’t get bogged down with the past. Don’t imprison yourself inside walls of regret and recrimination. Be free.”
What would you give to be free? Free of the fear of losing your job? Free of resentment over insults and invalidation? Free of the anxiety and the regrets that keep you from falling asleep at night?
Unfortunately, for some individuals, the word religion carries a connotation of duty and obligation. For them, today’s exhortations, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you” sound burdensome. Yet, the heart and soul of Christian religion is salvation. And, for those who experience it, salvation is just another word for freedom. Or, as St. Augustine once put, “Love. Then do what you will.”
I recently read a book about the three phases of a priest’s life (which can also apply to the spiritual phases of anyone’s life): From Hero to Servant to Mystic, by Fr. Scott Detisch. The focus of this this book concerns the influence of one’s working relationship with Christ.
It asks these questions: Are you the Hero or Heroine who gives all there is to give? Who sweats blood, plows through difficulties, carries the heavy load? All for Christ? All the time! Yes, every time!
Or are you one of the faithful, reliable Servants who collaborate with Him as a partner-in-the-firm? Do you count yourself among His confidants, a close comrade working with Christ, at his side, every step of the way, attentive to his insights and appreciative of his friendship?
Either one of these modalities will compel you to respond to today’s reading with vigor and determination. This response is laudable and commendable and, without doubt, pleases the Lord and assists him in establishing his Kingdom of Justice, Love and Peace.
Yet it is the wisdom of the final phase of discipleship, that of the Mystic, that completes the journey through today’s passage. It is the one who desires communion with Christ who, at the conclusion of the reading, inwardly knows the full significance contained within the final verse: “Give, and gifts will be given to you; For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
As followers of Christ, it is indeed necessary to work for Christ and to work with Christ. Yet, do we grasp and comprehend the call to be in communion with Christ?
Consider, again, the wisdom of Augustine who, when describing the ritual of the Holy Eucharist in which you and I are participating at this very moment, once said, "Believe what you see, see what you believe and become what you are: the Body of Christ."
The consummation of our life in Christ is nothing less that to be in communion with Christ. In Chapter Twelve of this same gospel according to St. Luke, Jesus speaks about workers of his who, after laboring diligently for him and with him throughout the hours of their day and the years of their life, will
be seated at his table…to be waited on by himself! Yes, after a life of a service, after a life of washing the feet of others in the name of Christ, Christ himself will kneel before you to return the favor!
Communion. Communion with Christ. How does one begin to describe this level of freedom? To be so secure, so confident, so united in mind and heart with Christ that there is no room for any fear resentment in your soul?
Such salvation is freedom indeed and it requires profound trust to enter into the mystery of it. Yet the path is near and the door is open. Today’s passage points the way: Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.