Sunday Sermon for February 24, 2019, the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: 1 Sam 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Lk 6:27-38
In the second reading today St. Paul teaches there are two Adams, the first Adam is of earth, the second, Jesus, is from Heaven. St. Paul points out that the natural came first, then the spiritual, so as we bear the image of the earthly Adam, we are also called to bear the image of the Heavenly Adam.
First, we must first understand what St. Paul is teaching here: by comparing Adam and Jesus he is contrasting two different moments in creation. Adam is the first man God created; Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, the first man of the new creation. Jesus came from Heaven, but He assumed the nature of the earthly Adam. He was born in time in order to lift up those who would be reborn in Him for eternity.
We are all well acquainted with what it means to live an earthly life, not only in the sense of our day-to-day life, but especially in the sense of our sharing in the disobedience of Adam. We have all sinned and fallen short of the Kingdom of God. However, in Jesus, we now have the opportunity to be remade into the image of the Lord. One would think this would not be difficult because like Adam we are made in the image and likeness of God. Unfortunately, we have been so disfigured by sin, both original and personal, that we can be remade to bear the image of the Man from Heaven only with great difficulty.
We look, for instance, at what our Lord teaches us today in the Gospel. He tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Have you ever tried doing this? Most people find it repulsive; some are unable to put this teaching into practice because of the memory of the offense another person has committed against them.
This brings us to the heart of the matter. If we are going to be children of God and members of Jesus Christ, our Lord is telling us we have to act the way God acts. In other words, we have to be remade into persons who bear the image of God and act as God acts. Thankfully, God made this concrete for us by sending His Son to show us how to live in the image of the Man from Heaven.
Jesus not only tells us how God acts, He shows us how God acts: He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked; He is merciful. He gives without expecting anything in return. This last point certainly applies to those who are His friends, but it applies equally to those who hate Him. So, if we are going to be like God, we have to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors, as Jesus teaches us and shows us to do.
If we are among those who find it odious to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us, the first thing we have to do is to pray for them. This sounds easy, but it can be very challenging. It may be that when you try to pray for the person, if there is too much pain or hurt from the past, you may not even be able to mention the person’s name. If this is the case, begin by telling the Lord He knows the person for whom you are praying.
Next, we have to ask God to bless this person and help us to forgive. It may be easier to pray for something bad to happen to the person, but such a prayer is not how God acts. If we pray for this person daily, within a few weeks we will begin to experience a greater charity toward the person.
If we persevere in this practice we will eventually be able to forgive the person. We may not be able to reconcile if the person has not apologized, but we can still forgive. Remember, to forgive is to let go, not to say it was okay. As time goes on, we need to watch our reaction to hearing the person’s name or seeing the individual. If our reaction is negative, we have not fully forgiven; we need to pray for the person again.
In time God may ask something even more difficult: to do an act of kindness for the person. This may grate against us, but it is only when we can do this that we know we are truly free. We see this in the first reading with the kindness David showed to Saul; we see it in the example of our Lord on the Cross. If we want to bear the image of the Man from Heaven, Jesus is our ultimate model.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.