Most of us don’t have to look very far to find someone we can’t stand; someone who never listens, and over time we grow to even hate. Our “enemies” are in our hometowns, and they’re even members of our own families. Hatred and revenge cut across all boundaries—they are tragically rooted in our nature. We all know people who have been terribly hurt by others. Where anger got out of control; where a simple innocent encounter turns into a yelling match and a shoving contest; where two family members can no longer be in the same place at the same time; where something awful was done to another person; where the one person feels like Swiss cheese when ganged up on by their fellow neighbors or co-workers, and the worst of human behavior is exposed.
Along comes Jesus who teaches that there is to be no retaliation of any kind, not even measured or proportionate. When someone harms you or tries to take advantage of you, return it with a blessing. And we are to love our neighbor. And by neighbor Jesus means our families, our friends, our fellow parishioners, the strangers, and the illegal immigrants, those we can’t bear to look at or be with. All of them. And after he has laid down all these principles, he adds one more—be holy and love like God loves.
Very few of us think of ourselves as being holy. Oh, we strive for holiness, pray for holiness, and occasionally do holy things. But to be holy, well that’s reserved for the saints. But let me help you understand what it means to be holy. It means that we will be more compassionate; more forgiving. It means going beyond justice and standing not on rights but responsibility; it means giving more, maybe even so much that it hurts; it surrendering your need to be “right” all the time, it means letting go of your “ego”, it means walking away from confrontation even when the blame is someone else’s; it means responding in silence when to utter even a single word would be to escalate an argument; it means not having to win; not having to get the better of another in any circumstance; and it means re-thinking our basic attitudes in situation where I think I have all the answers.
You got to be kidding, Lord. Impossible you say, beyond our abilities?
Holy and Christ-like?—Yes. No doubt, this is difficult and it’s risky.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we humbly admit that we can’t do it without your help. Lord, help us to be holy, as you are holy. Help us to love our neighbor as you do—the stranger, the outcast, the lost, the broken, and the enemy, those close to us and those far away from us. Give us all that we need and hold us up whenever we fall short. We know that you will never give up on us as long as we keep trying.