Love Your Enemies
Friday October 22, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Ephesians 4:1-6) Gospel (St. Luke 12:54-59)
Our Lord, in the Gospel reading today, tells us that we have to settle with those with whom we have any kind of difficulty before we make it to the judge; the judge, of course, being God. And if we do not settle before we get there, then we are told that we are going to be thrown into Purgatory, into prison, where we will not be released until we pay the last penny. Obviously, that is not hell because there is no release from hell; and so if there is a release from this prison, it has to be Purgatory where we will be if we are still holding onto something, something that stands between us and God, but something also that violates the unity of the Body of Christ. That is precisely the point Saint Paul is talking about, how each one of us has been given this call and has been given a bond of peace, and that we are to have a unity that is made of love.
Now when we look at what goes on among Christians in general, and among Catholics in particular, it is a scandal; and it is nothing less than that. The greatest scandal in the world, our Holy Father tells us, is the division among Christians. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God of all Who is Lord and Father of all and is in all and through all and so on. That being the case, the fact that somebody is separated from the Mystical Body, or the fact that there is separation within the Body of Christ, is nothing short of a scandal because what it says is that on an objective level there are people who have rejected Christ. That is, they have rejected the fullness of the truth. They have not rejected Jesus completely, but it is a matter of saying, “There are certain things about the Lord that I personally don’t like. Therefore, I’m cutting myself off from those aspects.” Well, that is pretty pathetic when Jesus is God and He is perfect and we decide there are some things that we do not like, certain teachings Our Lord has given us that we do not appreciate, and so we are not going to believe and we are not going to accept them. That is exactly what has happened in Christianity: Because they refuse to accept the fullness of truth, they have separated themselves.
Within Catholicism itself, we can just look at our own selves. We look around and we see that even though we have the fullness of the truth and we have the sacraments, there are still people that dislike us and that we dislike. That is, once again, a pretty sad thing. Of course, we are not going to like everybody, but the Lord did not tell us that we had to – He told us that we have to love them! And there are not very many people I have met that truly love their enemies, that truly love the people who are around them, that treat them with charity and treat these people as though somehow they really truly liked them. Most people that we have some sort of dislike for, we shun. We are repulsed by them and we do not want to be around them; and if we have to be, we roll our eyes and we sigh and we groan and we complain and we do all these other things.
So what does Saint Paul say? He says, …with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of love. Unfortunately, that really does not characterize most of us, I do not suspect. So we have a long, long way to go – a long way to go. If there is anybody who thinks that they have made it – “Because I am so holy, I really don’t need to work at this anymore” – read this point that Saint Paul has just written. Then we can reevaluate that for ourselves and say, “Maybe I have a little longer to go than what I thought.” If we are not practicing virtue toward those with whom we do not agree, those whom we dislike, then we have completely missed the boat.
When Our Lord reminds us that if we say “Good morning” only to those who greet us, or if we are kind only to those who are kind to us, He says, What good is that? Hypocrites do the same. Tax collectors do the same. The worst of sinners do the same. I have watched people who are drug addicts bail one another out and help one another; they bend over backwards and give them their drugs and everything else. When it comes to two Christian people who are both trying to live a spiritual life, you would think they were opposite ends of the magnet, pushing against one another somehow as though they are working on two different things. Isn’t it sad that people who are completely in the throes of Satan will treat one another with kindness, but two Catholics will not? That is a pretty sad statement, and it says something about the virtue that we have developed – or failed to develop.
So if we ever get tempted to get caught up in our own self-righteousness, all we have to do, again, is apply these words to ourselves and ask how it is that we are doing. Again, listen: To live in a manner worthy of the call that you have received with all humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another through love, and striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.