Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time Year A February 20th, 2011

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Dear Friends:

When Abraham Lincoln was aspiring to be the President of the United States of America he had an arch-enemy called Stanton, who never lost a chance to attack Lincoln. Yet when Lincoln won the election, he surprised his friends, by giving Stanton a post in his cabinet. He defended his action by saying: “He is the best man for the job”, and he was proved right as Stanton gave him loyal service. When Lincoln was assassinated, Stanton paid him this tribute. He said: “Lincoln was one of the greatest men who ever lived”. Once when someone asked Lincoln why didn’t he destroy his enemies, he said: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

It is much easier to take revenge, than to forgive someone. The Lord has made it clear to us that vengeance is His and we have no right to take it. When one fails to forgive and takes revenge, one tries to become like God. St Paul reminds us: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’. No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Rm 12:19-21).

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth was the norm in Jesus’ time. He advocates a different path to his followers. They have to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors. This was a teaching so far unheard of and following this would definitely hurt the pride, honour and status of a man in society. In spite of this, if one wanted to follow Jesus one should suffer persecution and humiliation, in love and forgiveness. Jesus wanted his disciples to go beyond the Mosaic Law and follow a new path, which he himself walked.

Jesus tells us that God the Father loves all of His children deserving and undeserving. He loves them not because they are good but He is all good. His ‘love’ extends impartially and inclusively to all, the good and the bad. His ‘gifts’ of sun and rain extend to all. We must be “perfect” in the same way that “God is perfect.”

Forgiveness defeats the enemy and it accomplishes joy, freedom and peace. Unless Christians seek to imitate the all-embracing love of God, they are no better than others. It is said, “Not to forgive, is a decision to suffer”. So let us pray that we may be enabled to forgive and experience forgiveness in our lives.