But since illness, for the most part, is temporary, perhaps we can take this time to appreciate those who do help us. Nurses who answer questions and give us courage to continue on. Neighbors who cook a meal for us and deliver it to our door. People who pick up and deliver medications to help us get well. Thank God there are people around who act with God given compassion and kindness.
It is also a time to reflect on how we have treated others. Do we love our so-called enemies? Can we perhaps understand better what brought them to do what they did, and then forgive and pray for them? Can we sometime go the extra mile for someone who desperately needs some extra help, even if it seems they brought it upon themselves?
We can look at the lives of people who tried to love and pray for their enemies, like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, who all continued to work for justice but without violence, even though violence was used against them.
The question that arises is how to help people so they grow into people who can be compassionate and kind? In Leviticus it says, “Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of it. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” In Matthew it says, “For God makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. … So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I’ll have to admit I wonder if people will just take advantage of our goodness and never change but continue to use people instead of growing into better people themselves.
But then I read about the Homeboy Industries of Los Angeles who work with gang members. Their mode of operation is: “Treat everyone with respect and encourage them with tenderness. Tenderness begets tenderness, we insist on extravagance, which liberates our hearts. Jettison blame and embrace understanding. We see God’s light in everything and thereby choose mysticism over morality. Choose Connection, not perfection. All are called to be practitioners – otherwise we’re audience.”
God doesn’t condemn us, God loves us into being better. We might condemn ourselves and thus need to encounter God’s love to be better.
So the two sentences we began with, “Be holy for I your God am holy.” And “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” are invitations not commands. Invitations to come and be in a closer, deeper, relationship to this God who is just dying to be close to us, the invitation to come into God’s heart and live there.
Then we can love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We can forgive those who harm us and not even think about taking revenge.
There is a story: “A fight attendant, after finishing the takeoff instructions, signed off, ‘Now sit back and relax, and enjoy the flight… OR… sit up and be tense all the way… up to you.”
This is how God invites us: “come enjoy my love, enjoy this creation, enjoy life – or don’t. It’s your choice.”
We might as well choose God and God’s love. It seems a much better way to live.
Boyle, Gregory. SJ. THE WHOLE LANGUAGE: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness.
Avid Reader Press. 2021. Pages XViii, XiX.
We seek to respond to the call of the Church herself, that all the faithful are expected to reflect on God’s Word and interpret it back to the community.