In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ in today’s Gospel we hear our Lord teaching. His teaching is summed up in the last line of the Gospel “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) What does this mean to be merciful as our heavenly Father is Merciful?
Each day the Lord our God allows the sun to rise on this earth that is full of both the righteous and sinners. As our Lord said in the Gospel of Saint Matthew “He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”(Matthew6:45)
Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic asks the following questions “Does God wait for men to deserve the sun’s warmth and only then command the sun to shine? Or does He first act out of His charity and love?” The answer is simple God acts out of His charity and love for man and bestows blessings upon him whether man deserves them or not.
What we should glean from this is that to be merciful like our heavenly Father is to be charitable to others out of love. The question then arises how do I extend charity and love to my fellow man. In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a simple answer to this question “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend hoping for nothing again.” (Luke 6:34-35)
This simple answer is difficult for us because our self will gets in the way. We want things our way and on our own terms.
When we look at the phrase “love your enemies” we think it is unnatural. We think it is perfectly natural for us to be conflict with our fellow man. Furthermore we think it is natural for us to be in conflict with the world around us. This is because this is our experience of the world around us.
Did God intend for His creation to be in conflict? The answer to this is a resounding NO! God intended for His creation to be like Him; like the three persons of the Holy Trinity that are in harmony with each other. It was through our ancestor Adam and the exertion of his will over God’s that created this conflict.
We need to realize that God loves our enemies just as much as He loves us because we are all His children.
Christ provides for us the example of love for our enemies when He says from the cross “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) We might think that this is just possible for Jesus because He is God but, it is possible for us. The first martyr Stephen provides the same example when he says “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:60) Numerous other martyrs provided the same example.
Thus, to say that it is unnatural or impossible to love our enemies is far from the truth. Our Lord told us that “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
The other portion of this verse that is just as difficult for us is to “do good, and lend hoping for nothing again.” If we only do good to those that love us or lend only to those that will repay us; are we really extending charity to our fellow man? The simple answer is no; as our Lord said in today’s Gospel “for sinners also do even the same” (Luke 6:33)
If we do good and lend without looking for looking for repayment from someone but, go about looking for recognition and awards for our philanthropy; are we really hoping for nothing in return? The simple answer is again no. This is the greatest trap that many of us fall into when extending charity. We want people to know about that dollar we gave for this or that cause. If we do not receive a thank you for the charity we all too often become indigent.
In both of these cases we are simply engaging in barter; I do this for you and you do this for me. This type of bartering all too often even extends to our relationship with God. It has nothing to do with love for our fellow man or our love for God. It has everything to do with our love for ourselves. When we engage in this type of activity we lower ourselves from sons of God to debtors paying off debts.
“Our charity is not a virtue that simply pays off debts. But one that constantly lends” as our holy father Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic says. It is about true love; the love that gives and looks for nothing in return.
This is a spiritual lesson for us in becoming God like. We must love or give of ourselves no matter if it is repayed with good or evil. The example given to us by God is to continually give to us and provide for us whether we repay Him with good or evil; righteousness or sin.
So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ it may seem like a monumental task to be “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) by extending charity through loving your enemies, and doing good, and lending hoping for nothing again but as our Lord said in the Gospel of Saint Matthew “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on the 19th Sunday After Pentecost 2009