20th February, 2022

Statue of King David, Jerusalem

The 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Last Monday, many couples in love celebrated Valentine’s Day. On that day, a lot of people sent to their beloved: Valentine’s cards, flowers, chocolates or other gifts, and the words “I love you”  were spoken millions of times in many languages of the world. Couples in love could be found almost everywhere: in parks, in cinemas, on the streets or in restaurants. From the very morning we could hear about Valentine’s Day on: radio, internet and television. But now a few days after Valentine’s Day no one remembers it, because the media has moved on, and in the shops all the decorations with red hearts have disappeared. Despite the fact that of Valentine’s Day there is no trace, love has not disappeared from the face of the earth. Many people love each other, show and express this love every day.

Love is the main theme of today’s Gospel too. Jesus’ words provoke us to reflect on what is the essence of true love? One of my wise teachers once shared with me this phrase: “True love is when we care more for the other person than for ourselves” A few years later as a priest I became a teacher and taught in one of the schools in my parish in Poland. One day I talked to my students about marriage preparation and more specifically about marriage vows. One of my students said something which saddened me, something I have never forgotten. He said: “Father, I hope you did not speak seriously about marriage vows? After all, these are only words that can always be cancelled or changed… How can we love someone for the rest of our lives and even more than ourselves? That’s just an ideal! It’s not possible!” I feel that in these modern times, people more and more often do not understand true love and its sacrifices, and are afraid to bind with each other permanently and to work on their love. Meanwhile, today Jesus is telling us about an even more difficult and demanding love. He explains to us the ideal of our Christian love. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who treat you badly…” These words are incredibly beautiful and our life would be wonderful if all people would live these words on a daily basis. Unfortunately, our life experience shows us that people behave differently. How often we repay evil for evil. Maybe sometimes we ask the question: How can I love someone who wants to take away something that I have worked so hard for, something very precious to me? Why should I not defend myself against people who want to humiliate or hurt me? Why should I speak only good words to those who curse me and my loved ones? I think that these words not only today, but also in the time of Jesus aroused many emotions. That is why Jesus explained after a while: “If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much” Probably many of us are wondering what these words mean and whether such an attitude is possible. Are we able to love our enemies and pray for them? Probably many of us would say that it is beyond our human understanding. But today’s First Reading gives us an example of what is possible. We heard the beautiful story of David and Saul. As we may remember David was a very popular military commander in the army of King Saul, who became very jealous of David, for being so admired by the people. He felt that David was a rival to his authority. This jealousy grew stronger and stronger, until finally Saul decided to kill him. For a few months, David had to hide in the hills, whilst Saul pursued him with several thousand soldiers. Later however, the situation reversed, and it was David who could have killed Saul. And yet he did not do so, even if it meant that he would get revenge, avoid danger, take over Saul’s power and become king of Israel. He did not let revenge and hatred prevail in his life.

Not only does David give us an example of the love of enemies, but many saints do. Perhaps some of us remember the dramatic attack on John Paul II, which happened over 40 years ago at St. Peter’s Square in Rome. After this incident, the Pope said these significant words: “I am praying for my brother who hurt me, and whom I sincerely forgive“. When he had recovered, he even went to the prison to meet with his attacker and hugged him and actually talked with him like a brother.

May today’s Gospel inspire us to extend our love to our enemies and all those who hurt us, even if this seems not logical and beyond our human understanding. Let us follow the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who from the cross teaches us about forgiveness. Let us try to look on others with love, not only once a year on Valentine’s Day, but every day. It is easy to be pleasant and respectful to others for one day a year, but much harder in our everyday life.

Fr Gregory

Image: Statue of King David, near his tomb in Jerusalem