Sunday Word

‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’

Father Scotchie
Sunday, Feb. 19
Lv 19:1-2, 17-18; Ps 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13; 1 Cor 3:16-23; Mt 5:38-48

“You are the light of the world!” The Sermon on the Mount spells out ways to let our light shine in the darkness so that others are drawn to Christ.

How might we let our light shine? Jesus gets down to business. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth makes both sides blind and gummy.

Instead, Jesus commands, “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well.” He forbids retaliation of any kind toward those who strike you, haul you into court, and borrow money without repaying it. “Love your enemies” (Mt 5:38-42).

The Austrian poet Erich Fried wrote, “Naïve? Anyone who thinks that love of enemies is impractical has not considered the practical consequences of hatred of enemies.”

Some of the consequences of hatred of enemies are sleepless nights, endless resentment of what happened, fantasies of what you could have said and done, grudges and family feuds. Between peoples, hatred of enemies leads to wars.

A positive consequence of loving your enemy is not certain. Yet it does make new things possible. St. Augustine said, “Love all men, even your enemies, not because they are your brethren, but that they may be your brethren.”

This is not to excuse them, but to invoke the power of God for them. You are to ask for them what you want God to give to you and your loved ones. If you want healing, pray for their healing. If you want peace, pray for their peace.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa was a preacher of the Papal Household. For Good Friday in 2015, his homily mentioned the many Christians martyred by militant groups in Africa and the Middle East. Only two months earlier, 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded in Libya by ISIS. They died while whispering the name of Jesus.

He preached, “True martyrs for Christ do not die with clenched fists but with their hands joined in prayer.”

Jesus, while hanging on the cross, had prayed for those who crucified him. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Following the example of Jesus Christ, the Coptic Christian martyrs prayed for their enemies.

“The true Sermon on the Mount that changed history is not, however, the one spoken on a hill in Galilee but the one now proclaimed, silently, from the cross.”

Father Cantalamessa concluded, “On Calvary, Christ delivers a definitive ‘no’ to violence, setting in opposition to it not just nonviolence but, even more, forgiveness, meekness and love. Although violence will still continue to exist, it will no longer — not even remotely — be able to link itself to God and cloak itself in his authority.”

At a parish reconciliation liturgy, I asked the assembly to pray that God might bless a person toward whom they had hard feelings. The next time they thought of a person they were not able to forgive, they were to make it an opportunity to pray for their peace.

They did not need to feel warm and fuzzy toward their enemy. They were simply to say a pray for the other’s good. In other words, they were to make an act of forgiveness. After the reconciliation liturgy, more than a few people came to me and said it was the hardest penance they had ever received.

Experiencing “the Lord is kind and merciful” (Ps 103:8a) makes us able to give the gift we have received. Jesus’ teachings only make sense in the kingdom of God. In other words, we love our enemies because we have received his mercy.

To take to prayer: Who do you want to retaliate against? How can you love them instead? How can you be a light for them?

Father Scotchie is the pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo, and his latest book is “Can I Say a Prayer With You: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying With Someone.” He can be reached at frdavidscotchie@gmail.com.

God’s grace and help are always available

Father Scotchie
Sunday, Feb. 12
Sir 15:15-20; Ps 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34; 1 Cor 2:6-10; Mt 5:17-37or 5:20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37

“You are the light of the world!” In this Sunday’s selection from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives three examples how to let your light shine for others.

First, do not insult one another. Second, do not mislead. Third, do not lust. In today’s terms, do not use porn.

Dave Barrett hit bottom while driving home from a one-night stand. “A long bridge rose ahead of me, and I was open to its possibilities. Maybe I’d make it across. Maybe I would hit the side and flip off. Maybe I’d just hit the concrete barrier and spin a few times.”

The next day over lunch, he told a friend everything. “I was fine at work and with the kids, but no time alone with internet access was safe; that some nights I slept on my porch to try to escape the temptation.”

Barrett related his recovery from his secret life in a Washington Post newspaper article, “He was hooked on porn for eight years. Then he learned to fish.”

Countless men and increasingly more women live their own version of Barrett’s story. We are tempted to lust. Porn, like cocaine for the libido, makes lust into a false god that takes priority over everything.

Jesus taught that sexual immorality is a matter of one’s heart: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:27-28).

Our bishops wrote a healing and hopeful pastoral letter, “Create in Me a Clean Heart.” They teach, “Looking at another person with lust — as only a sexual object to enjoy, control and use — is a sin. It is a disordered view of the person, because it is ordered toward use, as of a thing, rather than love, which pertains to persons. This is why pornography can never be justified, even within marriage.”

Pornography consists in visual images, real or virtual. It can be in certain romance novels, erotic literature, phone conversations, social media and online video chats.

“Many people who start by occasionally viewing pornography later become compulsive viewers who feel trapped in a cycle of fantasy, ritual, acting out and despair. After using pornography, the person craves more and over time seeks out a higher number of and/or more extreme images to get the same ‘high.’”

Using pornography, like any sin, harms one’s relationships. Users find it hard to believe that God loves them. They may despair of his mercy and healing. Their marriages grow shallow.

Monstrous forces crush individual resolutions. “Pornography is a big business,” the bishops note. “Marketers target young men especially with sexual ads on popular sports and social media websites. Other businesses, such as hotel chains, cable companies and drugstores, profit greatly from the widespread use of pornography.”

Against this industry of sin, the Church works for a culture of life that honors the true dignity of human sexuality. It seeks to dethrone pornography from its prominent and privileged place that feeds evils such as child pornography and sex trafficking. There is real hope for freedom. God’s grace and concrete help are always available. Healing is always possible.

On day 40-something of clean living, Dave Barrett was fishing on a rainy beach. He had taken up surf fishing as a hobby and did not worry that he had yet to catch a single fish. When a beach walker asked why he was fishing in the poor weather, he frankly responded, “It’s a 12-step thing,” leaving off the sex part.

“I’ve been clean 25 years,” she said. Dave noticed she was kind of radiant.

A fish, his first ever, hit the line. He reeled it in and landed it in his cooler. “Not exactly huge,” he said to the 12-stepper in the slicker.

“The thing is,” she said, “we all have to start somewhere.”

To take to prayer: Where does the Lord want you to start?

Christ is our light bulb

Father Scotchie
Sunday, Feb. 5
Is 58:7-10; Ps 112:4-9; 1 Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16

‘Many dwell in darkness. Caught up in the self, they struggle in a culture darkened by hate and vengeance, status and shame, self-righteousness and condemnation, worry and fear, glory and gossip. They see only darkness and despair. What a difference a vibrant Lite-Brite would make for them.’

For travelers, according to one recent bucket list, the No. 1 destination is the Northern Lights. The kaleidoscopic shimmer of the night sky is worth a cold, miserable week in Iceland. (The second-most popular wish is to visit the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights, Paris.)

Part of the addictive power of cellphones and video games, TV and Facebook, in my inexpert opinion, is that they glow. The digital light of screens compels our attention and mesmerizes. Light attracts us before we even realize that our attention is being directed. Like moths to a flame, we are wired for light.

“You are the light of the world,” Jesus teaches us. Our way of life is to shine so that others can’t help but be attracted to him.

Remember Lite-Brite? Lite-Brite is a toy created by Hasbro in 1967 which allows the user to create glowing designs. It is a light box with small colored pegs that fit into a grid of holes to create a colorful house or my little pony or a dinosaur.

You push color pegs into a grid. The color-by-number template tells you which color peg (green, blue, red, yellow, orange, pink, purple and clear) to put in which hole.

What makes Lite-Brite magical is the light bulb behind the grid. The colored plastic pegs light up when you push them through the black piece of paper. The light bulb behind the black piece of paper lights up the colored pegs.

Christ is our light bulb. Plugged into Christ, we become something beautiful. The people of God on fire with Christ become like a Lite-Brite which others can’t help but see and say, “Wow, I want to see more of this.”

An angry dark cloud in which we live is racism. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., wrote, “We mourn those tragic events in which African-Americans and others have lost their lives in altercations with law enforcement officials.”

A task force of our bishops has made recommendations to bring peace to our communities, such as prayer, dialogue and justice. February is Black History Month. The division is an opportunity for the Church to let the Christ Lite-Brite shine.

For the next four weeks until Ash Wednesday on March 1, we hear from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaches us not to retaliate, hate, curse, take oaths, brag, preen, worry or backbite — in other words, to let our Lite-Brite shine. “You are the light of the world.”

The first reading from Isaiah 58:7-10 tells us that sharing bread with the hungry and sheltering the oppressed lights up our Lite-Brite. “Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”

Many dwell in darkness. Caught up in the self, they struggle in a culture darkened by hate and vengeance, status and shame, self-righteousness and condemnation, worry and fear, glory and gossip. They see only darkness and despair. What a difference a vibrant Lite-Brite would make for them.

“The just one is a light in darkness” (Ps 112:4a).

To take to prayer: Ask the Lord to send you to someone you know who needs a Lite-Brite. n

Father Scotchie is the pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo. His most recent book is “A Prayer for Hope.” He can be reached on Facebook or at frdavidscotchie@gmail.com.

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United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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