“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” ~ G.K. Chesterton
We see once again in today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:43-48), a continuation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, that superficial and surface-level morality is of no interest to the Son of Man. Jesus always sought to go deeper, to challenge those in his midst to pursue the fullness and richness of the divine life. Pope Leo the Great, among others, evangelized tirelessly on this topic https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Saved-Through-the-Bath-of-Rebirth. Just a few moments ago, a quote attributed to Saint John Eudes came across my Facebook Feed which read “Monks, priests and nuns are not the only ones called to holiness. Every Christian must live the life of Christ.” Amen.
“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.” Therein lies the key to the divine life, a topic we touched briefly upon yesterday https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Jesus-and-the-New-Weapons-of-Righteousness. To strive to become, as Jesus says in the closing words of today’s Gospel, perfect...just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
God sent his Son Jesus into the world not only to teach us how to become perfect, but to show us. I love the words of Saint Paul in today’s 1st Reading (2 Corinthians 8:1-9), for nestled within this text we’re given some insight into how Jesus lived perfectly. Paul says “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you may become rich.” Herein lies the essence of the divine life; discipline.. .obedience... humility.
On the topic of humility, I can’t help but think of the words of G.K. Chesterton, the man whose quote kicks off today’s reflection and whose birthday was commemorated by his vast legion of devotees yesterday. “What we suffer from today,” he observed, “is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition and settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.”
What would Gilbert Keith Chesterton think of the world today, one which he last walked, or shall I say waddled ~ Chesterton carried nearly 300 lbs on his 6’4” frame ~ a mere 85 years ago? Truth has clearly and very sadly become relative in the eyes of so many, giving way to delusion’s always tragic collateral damage: confusion, despair, hopelessness, and skyrocketing suicide rates among other things. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). “Humility is the mother of giants,” Chesterton once said. “One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”
Being the sinful creatures that we are, we cannot of our own accord abide by the teachings of Jesus. True, it starts with a desire to pursue this narrow path but after that, we’re dead in the water without God’s grace. “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly,” Saint Ignatius of Loyola once said. Sadly, it would appear, he was correct. But all is not lost. As Thomas Merton once explained, “Grace is not a strange, magic substance which is subtly filtered into our souls to act as a kind of spiritual penicillin. Grace is unity, oneness within ourselves, oneness with God.” Through prayer, quiet time in Eucharistic Adoration, and most importantly a Sacramental life, God’s grace can indeed course through our souls.
I leave you with yet one more quote, this one authored by Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, who gives us not only insight but much to ponder by way of inner introspection when he says “Grace is given not to them who speak their faith, but to those who live their faith.”
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with each of you now and until the hour in which you are called home to the Heavenly Kingdom.