Jesus said to his disciples: “I say to you that listen: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
I love boxing movies. I love the thrill, the grit, the fierceness of the training, and the way the fighters can channel their anger in a way that is controlled in their sport.
I recently watched a movie called “Cinderella Man”. The main character, James, must go back to his career in boxing to feed his family during the Great Depression. It’s a brilliant story of family, honour, and overcoming difficult circumstances.
There is one scene that stuck with me the most. The final boxer James is up against is incredibly crude. He makes inappropriate comments and tries very hard to make James lash out at him and throw him off before the fight. Yet, despite his best efforts James remains calm and demonstrates a high level of class and character even when he’s being treated unkindly.
Now, not all of us have the luxury of taking the people who have hurt us into a boxing ring. In a similar way to how this character demonstrated restraint, Jesus so calls us to overcome our hurts.
The gospel is a humbling call to love when your heart is calloused; to love when someone has hurt you or your family and forgiveness feels unthinkable. It’s so easy to keep hating people who have caused division in your life.
It’s excruciating to choke back rage when all you want is to let it go free.
However, I have found that it’s only painful if you let it be painful. God’s grace has the power to lift our pain and give us objectivity — to empathetically see how that other person may be in their own agony and in need of mercy and compassion. How can we in our simpleness ever know the depth of another person’s pain if they do not tell us? Only God can know the subconscious mind, and in this gospel, He is telling us to soften our hearts to each other.
It’s funny that this theme of softness has continued to come up in my life. I have always been very sensitive, and a lot of people use the word “gentle” to describe me. It used to anger me that I couldn’t be strong and bold like other girls I looked up to (or my brothers). Yet, in this Gospel reading and in so many other instances in my life, I am thankful for these gifts. They allow for coming closer to the gentle heart of God.
Jesus encourages softness.
The soft is where we see another person in their humanity. We allow for the brokenness of their own hearts to enter, and we can hold the pain with another person.
What a challenge the Lord has placed before us here this Sunday: softening our hearts and humbling ourselves before those who have hurt us. God’s wisdom is far superior to our own and only He holds the truth to unlock the hardest of hearts.
Please, Dear Jesus, soften and humble the hearts of Your faithful. Give us the gift of forgiveness — stronger than a knockout punch.