I think today’s Gospel reading presents some challenges on this particular day. “Love your enemies” is a fine instruction in times of peace and security, but we don’t live in those times. I wonder if anyone ever did, after Eden.
I think many of us will never forget where we were eight years ago today. People say that about the day that President Kennedy died, or the day when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. But in a particular way, I think we will never forget September 11, 2001, because it was a day that changed our world in some very unpleasant ways and shattered whatever remained of our innocence. Traveling and doing business has changed so much in these years. So many of us have known people who have died in the twin towers, or in the war that has raged since.
And today, war continues, and the lack of peace seems to continue, and there is that ever-present sense of terror. So maybe it is time for us to do some examination and to discern what has led to that sense of unrest. Today’s Gospel gives us the examination of conscience that will help us to do that. “Love your enemies.” The commandment is unsettling. We all know it’s hard sometimes to truly love those who are not our enemies, so what chance do we have to love our enemies? And why should we, anyway?
Well, that last line of the Gospel tells us why: “For the measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out to you.” So the way that we deal with others is the way God will deal with us. That’s almost horrifying. So it is imperative that love be our first inclination. It’s the lack of love that got us into this mess in the first place. So if we want to be with God for eternity, we have to be like God, our God who is love itself.
And yet, it’s easier to say that than to do it. We certainly struggle with our emotions in times of terror and tragedy. But Jesus never said our way in this world would be easy as his disciples, but only that it would lead to eternal blessedness.
It didn’t all go wrong on 9-11; if we are honest, that horrifying day was a long time coming. But that day should have been a loud, blaring wake-up call to all of us that things have to change if we are ever going to experience the peace of Christ’s kingdom. We are not going to get there without any one person or even any group of people; we need for all of us to repent if any of us will ever see that great day. Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, absolutely must be a time when we all hear that wakeup call yet anew, and respond to it from the depths of our hearts, both as individuals, and as a society.
Truly we will never forget where we were on that horrible day of 9-11. But wouldn’t it be great if we could all one day look back with fondness, remembering with great joy the day when we finally partnered with our God, found a way to love our enemies, and turned it all around?