Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love
your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
When I was a newly ordained priest, one of my responsibilities in the parish was to work with the sacramental preparation programs for the grade school and religious education children. We were working with the sacrament of reconciliation, and I was doing a presentation for the parents. I stressed the fact that God is always ready to welcome us home. No matter what we have done, God is always ready to forgive.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
When I finished my talk, I opened it up for questions. I called on the first hand that went up, and the parent challenged me. If we talked about God being so willing to forgive, weren’t we encouraging people to sin because it was so easy to be forgiven? To be honest, there is a certain element of scandal in what a gospel song calls “the wideness in God’s mercy. “
We have a tendency to put people in categories. We might be more willing to cut some people some slack, but we prefer a tougher policy with others. We can be a little uncomfortable with a God who makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, or as Luke puts it in his parallel to this passage, he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. The outrageous teaching of Jesus is that perfection is not keeping all the rules, but rather in being merciful and compassionate as our God is merciful and compassionate.
At what point do I find myself starting to get uncomfortable with the extent of God’s mercy? Are there any individuals or groups that I would like to exclude from God’s mercy?
—Fr. Joe Folzenlogen, S.J. is vice-superior of the Faber Jesuit Community in Cincinnati and Director of Claver Jesuit Ministry.
Jesus, thank you for welcoming us into the boundless love and mercy of God. Deepen our gratitude for this great gift. Enlarge our hearts so we can be your instruments in extending that mercy and compassion to others. We ask this in your name. Amen.
—Fr. Joe Folzenlogen, S.J. is vice-superior of the Faber Jesuit Community in Cincinnati and Director of Claver Jesuit Ministry.Please share the Good Word with your friends!