Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 24, 2019)

Today’s gospel offers us the great challenge for a disciple of Jesus:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who dislike you, bless those who speak ill of you and pray for those who mistreat you.” “Be merciful just as your heavenly Father is merciful.”

We all know how difficult this is to do.

We’ll never be able to do it without God’s grace, without learning to be very conscious that God is present with us each day, without asking God for the strength of his grace many times each day. The invitation of Jesus to love those who get in our face, who know how to push all our buttons, goes against our natural feelings of irritation and anger. Jesus seems to be asking too much.

What Jesus is asking of us is to be all that grace enables us to be. By our baptism, we have been given a share in the life and love of God. Jesus has become our brother; we are children of our heavenly Father by grace. Divine life is in us and that life enables us to live as Jesus lived. Jesus is asking us to learn to live by the new life we have been given. Because of grace, we are able to be merciful as our Father is merciful. Jesus has shown us how to love those who irritate us, how to forgive those who injure us.

St. Francis de Sales recommends several practices that can help us remember the strength of divine life within us.

Begin the day with a short prayer of awareness: “My God, you are here loving me today; help me to remember you’re with me as we go through the day.” Then, talk with God about the grace I will need to deal with particular people in my life who can irritate me or have mistreated me. During the day, when I know I’m going to meet such a person, I ask God’s help that I may relate with that person in a way that is pleasing to God. Then, each evening, thank God for the times when grace gave me strength and ask pardon for the times I forgot to ask for God’s help and failed because I tried to do it on my own.

The key is learning the discipline of remembering that I share divine life. When my prayer leads me to greater awareness of God’s loving presence each day, then I will more likely become dependent on the grace God makes available to me. Then the challenge that Jesus offers – to love my enemies – is not so impossible for me to try to meet. I can meet it because I trust in God who lives in me.