A world without frontiers

There are many ‘shocking’ passages in the gospels: Jesus healing lepers, forgiving sinners, calling tax collectors and washing his disciples’ feet. But the one thing that must have stuck in their throat was the call to ‘love your enemies’. After all the oppression they had been through – from the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Persians, the Greeks and now the Romans – how are they expected to have even a kind thought towards their enemies, leave alone love them?

Jesus came to announce the kingdom, a new world of fraternity (the word covers sisters as well as brothers, as Pope Francis points out in Fratelli Tutti). Paul interpreted it as a world without boundaries: ‘Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barriers of hatred that divide us’ (Eph 2:14).

In the Old Testament reading today, we see David sparing Saul’s life when he could have killed him. But David did not act out of love but out of fear of God’s anger if he killed ‘the Lord’s anointed’. David was a calculating politician!

Jesus, on the other hand, is urging us to remove the ‘great gulf’ referred to in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus at his door (Luke 16:26). Jesus calls us to go to the frontier where we cannot bring ourselves to say a kind word to some people who irritate us beyond endurance! They could be in our own family, in our work place or in our society. ‘If you love those who love you what thanks can you expect?’ our gospel asks us today.

Jesus wants a breakthrough in our world; between Russians and Ukrainians, Tigrayans and Ethiopians, migrants and those who close their doors to them -and all the other divided people in the world. And with us, is there a message too? Who is my ‘enemy’? Who am I called to reach out to? To love?

I know it is easy to ask these questions and they can remain theoretical or abstract. We can also give thanks for the barriers we have overcome. I often think of how I came to view people who are mentally handicapped in a completely different way. It was a gift for me. And I am sure you have had similar experiences. We are called to go on breaking down these barriers wherever they are. The kingdom is ‘among’ but it is not yet fully there!

20 February 2022          Sunday 7C        1 Sam 2:62…23            1 Cor 15:45-49              Lk 6: 27-38

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