Loving Those Who are Different

Matthew 5: 43-48
Dt 26: 16-19/ Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 7-8

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5: 48)

Love must have no limitation. . .
Though it may seem inconceivable
That love will come to perfection
Once it includes the unlovable.

(Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain both on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 43-48}

Reflection

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus was teaching about a higher standard of love than that taught by the scribes and Pharisees. There is no reward for a kind of love that takes no effort to practice. To be worthy children of God, we must love the way He loves all men, with no discrimination, showering His blessings and trials both on the righteous and the sinners. It is true that loving one’s enemy is almost an impossible proposition. But only from a human perspective. It can be done if we put our faith in these words of Jesus: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

If we reflect on what our Lord has been trying to tell us in these last two paragraphs of chapter five of Matthew’s Gospel, we can see that He has been describing what the character of God our Father really is. Jesus lived this example of righteousness in His life, and He wants us to reflect all its aspects in our own life as well. For instance, His love is not influenced by our behavior. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt.5:45). As St. Paul said, “God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8). God’s love is pure, unaffected by our sinfulness.

There is more animosity and conflict in the world today not so much because of competition for wealth, recognition, or power, but because it is easier to hate or alienate rather than to love and trust those we perceive to be different from us. This was the very unfortunate mistake of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, who showed his extreme prejudice against homosexuals when he was interviewed, and asked about his opinion on same-sex marriage. Lacking in education and discernment, he said (in so many words) that gays were no better than animals, because the latter only mate with their opposite sex. The LGBT groups all over the country (and even the whole world, thanks to social media) are now condemning the once exalted “national fist” and “hero of the underdog”, branding him “an ignorant hypocritical bigot.” How steep the fall caused by a careless tongue. His “bible studies” had not taught him that it is always better to be kind than to be right. By feeling righteous, Pacquiao had taken a position no different than that of a Pharisee.

Lead us, Lord to the truth that it is better to be kind than to be right, and be willing to suffer ridicule for the sake of winning a friend for Jesus. Grant us, dear God, to learn how to love our enemies, so that we may enjoy the peace that only You can give. Not as the world teaches do we learn to love, but from the lessons that our Lord Jesus imparts to us, and through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

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