by Antonio Caschetto | Feb 18, 2022 | Blog, News and Updates, Prayer | 1 comment
Our journey on the steps of the word of the Gospel reaches today one of its highest peaks. In this text, we will see that the phrase that summarizes the whole text of Luke is contained, the Gospel of mercy. We have already seen how the whole story of the third evangelist is softened by dwelling on the human aspects of Jesus, and on God’s consolation, as can be seen in the parables only present here with respect to the synoptics, or as in the Gethsemane scene in which, only in Luke , an angel appears comforting the solitude of Christ.
Today the sermon on the mountain that Luca sets in the plain continues, of which we have already seen the first part last Sunday. A discourse that touches all aspects of human life: each word is poetic, in the sense of “poesis”, of “doing”, because it is a creative word. It is even stronger because it is not a word that builds, that creates from nothing, but a word that cures, a “logotherapy”, as we have already said about the first part of the whole Gospel of Luke. Last Sunday, with the Beatitudes, Jesus fixed the broad horizon. Today, however, the concrete aspects of the Beatitudes are addressed. There are four imperatives: love, do good, bless and pray. Basically, it is what Jesus himself first has been experiencing.
“But I say to you who hear“: today’s speech begins with a “But” because it changes the recipients with respect to the beatitudes, just before he said “woe to you“. Now he turns to the apostles he has recently constituted. The first thing he asks is “to love”. Love your enemies. Who are our enemies? Our “enemy” is the other, who is different from us, who is distinguished from our person. The first enemy, for humankind, was God. We think of Adam and Eve hiding out fearful of the Father. Then the enemy is the brother, equal to me. We think of Cain killing Abel. Our whole life is surrounded by enemies if we turn away from God’s light. God has no enemies, only children. Moreover, whoever dies in martyrdom does not scream at the enemies who kill him, but gives his life as a witness to the truth, loving his own “enemies”.
This verb contains all our difficulty in living the gospel. All the beauty of Jesus’ message and life. The quality of love can be understood from the love for the enemy, because loving those who already love us, or those who like me, are basically easy. We are all good at that! Or almost all … Here it is not a love of “philia”, it is not friendship, but it is a love without profit. God so loved the world, his enemy, who is distinguished from him, that he gave his life for the world. Love for the enemy is a free love: basically we condemn those who do evil, those who use their power in various forms, because perhaps we, too, would like to have the benefits, and we envy those who do it. If, on the other hand, we were truly detached from the evil one, if evil were truly other than us, we could not hate those who do evil, but we should feel sorry for those who do it. Just that “trouble” we heard last Sunday. Whoever does evil, in general, is because he experiences a frustration within himself. When we are happy, when we have received news that gives us immense joy, we do not want to hurt the other, right?
Love is not a feeling. It is an action. It is doing and making. It is a blessing: saying good creates the other, enhances them. It is praying for the other, interceding, speaking to God about the other, wishing for the his good. “Praise, bless, thank and serve” are the four actions full of joy and love that close the Canticle of the Creatures. But evil still thrives despite these actions. But then, what is the meaning of these invitations that Jesus offers to his apostles? The enemy is the one who hits you in the face. Not reacting kills hatred, stops the escalation of violence, because evil feeds only on reactions. Here it almost seems to see the soldiers slapping Jesus after the trial, and him practicing this docile love, without reacting. Whoever tears your cloak, he gives your tunic. To those who violently strip you, do not be ashamed of this nakedness of earthly goods. Another anticipation of Calvary, when they tear the garments and compete for the tunic. “Give to anyone“, a giving without an object, a total giving, without valuation of goods. Let us think of Christ, who in his mission gave everything, gave hope, gave consolation, gave healing, gave happiness, gave clothes, gave life. Total love is born from the total refusal of possession, of which the witness for us is Saint Francis of the REnunciation. How complete is the Christian message, what a great revolution if only we believed in it a little! The opposite of love is not hate, but possession!
“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them“: this is the golden rule. It was already known in its negative form by Confucius (6th century BC), in Philo of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, in Tobias, in Sirach: “Do not do to anyone what you would not want to be done to you”. Here the logic is overturned, focusing on doing rather than not-doing. What you want, what is a right for you, it begins to be considered as a duty. The right to be free, for example, can be a duty to the freedom of the other. The right to be understood is a duty to understand the other. The clearest form of decentralization, of self-denial.
The reasons for this golden rule, the center of the whole Christian message, follow in the text. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you?” Fortunately, the old translation “what credit is that to you ?” was improved, because it actually has made the opposite sense. Jesus does not speak of merit, but of grace, because true love is free. The “paid” love is a harlot, which has the same root of merit. There is a love of sinners, off target, which is a love without gratuitousness. Free love is grace, is joy, is beauty, is charis. Love cannot be bought. On the contrary, it is blackmail.
The throwaway culture in our relationships is based precisely on the lack of gratuitousness. Without grace, there is no love, there is only possession. Loving one’s enemies is pure gratuitousness, because there can never be a return. Loving one’s neighbor, the closest one, is very difficult.
“Your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High“, a reward understood as “salary”. What is the salary of a child? Nothing, because everything that belongs to a father also belongs to the son. It is total wealth, not in monthly installments! And what is God like? The first definition that Jesus gives is “benevolent”, literally “usable”. Francis defines him as “Most High, Almighty and Good“. Being usable risks of being abused, how many times we abuse God! How many times we “use it badly”, how many holy wars! And God is usable, precisely, for the ungrateful, for the ungraceful, for those who do not have the grace of gratuitousness.
And how beautiful is the conclusion of this passage! The invitation to be sons of the father, to be inspired by him: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful“. The whole Gospel of Luke is a kind of explanation of this sentence. Jesus echoes the command of God present in Leviticus: “Be holy for I am holy“, principle of the law, to be like God. Holy, understood as “different”, separate, inviolable. Man also wants to become like God, let’s think of Adam, Prometheus, the Titans, the atheists. How is God? God is the other, not so much because he is “merciful”, but above all because he is mercy. His holiness is to be mercy. The Greek term oiktirmòs translates the Hebrew rehamîm which indicates the bowels, the womb, giving birth. The essence of the Father is to be a mother, to be a womb. Becoming “pregnant” seems to be the invitation to be generators of life, the cradle in which your children are formed. Love that welcomes, that does not judge, does not condemn, in which it reveals his gratuitousness despite the evil. Let’s think of a mother’s love for her son.
The “perfection of God” is to be “pluriuterine”, to be a generative and welcoming womb. To imagine God, rather than looking for adjectives describing him in part, just think of our mothers, to the immense love they have given us, and God is even more immense. Think of the bag of food that our mothers had given us when we set out on a journey somewhere: here we find the measure: “a good measure, pressed, filled and overflowing, will be poured into your womb”. How much abundance when there is a total love! What a beauty!
It almost seems to see the kingdom of God in our midst, the place where God reigns, as described by St. Francis: “The kingdom come: so that you may reign in us through grace and make us reach your kingdom, where the vision of you is unveiled, the love of you is perfect, the communion of you is blessed, the enjoyment of you endless“(FF 269). Let us always thank the Lord for the gift of mercy and abundance of him today, which shows us the measure of his love for him without measure. Let us pray that we convert to the pure love that everything can in its being free. We sincerely wish you a happy Sunday.
Antonio Caschetto is the Italy Programs Coordinator for Italy for the Laudato Si’ Movement. He is an architect and also a member of the movement’s eco-spirituality team, and he regularly leads pilgrims in retreats in the Franciscan sanctuaries of Assisi, where he lives with his wonderful wife, Angelica, their two beautiful sons, Francesco and Emanuele, and their Spinone dog, Jumpy.