The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The scriptures appointed for today focus our attention and our hearts on the challenging yet essential work of reconciliation. Jesus calls you and me to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And if that is not a tall enough order, the Gospel concludes with…”Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Wow! That’s a challenge! In these incredibly divisive times, how are we to love as Jesus loved and to be reconcilers in our time and context? Jesus calls us to an alternative way of being. Not an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth. Rather, Jesus shows us how to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.
My own experience bears witness to the fact that naming and blaming “enemies” is life depleting, not life giving. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I believe that Jesus has called us to resist being seduced into a self-righteous and vengeful way of living. We are better than that. We are called to be better than that. We are called to be an alternative community where love prevails.
John of the Cross said, “Where there is no love, put love and you will find love.” May all of us put love where there is no love and find the love that heals, reconciles, and builds the beloved community we are called to be.
O God, by your Word you marvelously carry out the work of reconciliation: Grant that in our Lenten fast we may be devoted to you with all our hearts, and united with one another in prayer and holy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer