u-s-catholic-sunday-reflections

A reflection for the seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amy Ekeh reflects on the readings for February 20, 2022.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year C):

1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
Psalm 103:1-4, 8, 10, 12-13
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Luke 6:27-38

Reflection: Let God do the repaying

Is it possible to live the teachings of Jesus that we read and hear in today’s Gospel? Jesus really went for it with his Sermon on the Plain—love the people who are hardest to love, pray for people you don’t like, give things away, don’t ask for them back, let people take things, don’t ask for them back, let people strike you, don’t strike back, don’t judge, don’t condemn, be kind, forgive, and . . . do it all without expecting anything in return.

Is this possible? Or is it idealistic, unattainable, and unlivable? The cynical side of me asks these questions every time I come across this remarkable piece of preaching.

But then I reflect back on my life, and I see things differently. People do live these radical teachings. I know because I’ve been on the receiving end of them.

There’s a flip side to today’s message from Jesus. For every disciple who hears and acts on Jesus’ words, for every person who pours themself out, for every believer who refuses to judge, hate, condemn, or “get even,” there is someone who is on the receiving end of that action, that outpouring, that self-control, that self-gift. The message of receiving is as radical as the message of giving.

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Jesus is described in the Gospels as understanding human nature and knowing what was in the hearts of those around him (Mark 2:6-8; John 2:25). Jesus understood that the human heart can seem complex, but it really isn’t. Deep down it wants to give—to give to the point that it lets go, trusts, surrenders, depends on something greater than itself. Jesus does not ask us to do difficult things because he wants us to hurt or feel empty. It’s because he wants more for us. The human heart was made to give.

And the flip side—the human heart was made to receive. This reality may sometimes wound us even more than the giving. But it is a biblical reality. It is a sacred reality. But there is so much resistance—within ourselves and within our communities—we feel that we should be independent, we shouldn’t “be a bother,” we shouldn’t be burned out or broke or sinners. We try to keep track of the good that has been given to us; we want to repay the giver, even when what they give us is immaterial—like acceptance, forgiveness, encouragement, compassion, love, or time. But the preaching heart of Jesus tells us that we need not strive to even the playing field, to set the score back to zero-zero. In fact, he says we shouldn’t.

Let God do the repaying, Jesus urges us. It’s really better for the human heart that way.

It isn’t easy, but we know it is right. It is the way of love. It is possible.

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