February 24, 2019
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
Last Sunday we began Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” with Jesus turning the world upside-down with his “Blessings and Woes.” Those 4 blessings and 4 woes reveal a theme woven throughout all of Luke’s Gospel of the “great reversal,” which begins in Chapter 1 with Mary’s Magnificat as she sings about how the Lord lifts up the lowly and casts down the mighty, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty.” Throughout Luke’s Gospel Jesus is the “prophet par excellence” who turns the world on its head, who challenges his hearers to rethink what they assume to be true.
As I mentioned in my homily last Sunday on the “Blessings and Woes,” Jesus is inviting us to think like him, to see the world and our place in it through his eyes. Those blessings and woes only make Gospel sense when we put on the mind of Christ Jesus. If we only think with the mind of our culture, then we will never understand Jesus’ teaching that the blessed ones are the poor and hungry and sorrowing and persecuted, while the woeful ones are those who place their trust in their riches and seek only to keep their bellies full and to find social acceptance.
If last Sunday’s Gospel called us to “put on the mind of Christ,” then this Sunday’s continuation of the “Sermon on the Plain” challenges us to have the heart of Christ. We can only love as Jesus challenges us to love with his help, inviting Him to love through us, by joining our heart to His.
There is no way we can love our enemies on our own power. Only with Christ’s help can we do so. It is impossible for us on our own power to do good to those who hate us, to pray for those who persecute us, but with Christ’s help we can do so.
Only when our heart beats in union with Christ’s heart can we love in such a way.
This kind of loving only makes sense from the vantage point of the cross. There we see in the clearest and fullest way possible the heart of Jesus and what it means to love our enemies and to pray for them.
Jesus practices what he preaches. He lives what he teaches. On the cross, his body broken by the torture of the scourging and the crucifixion, Jesus prays through bloodied lips: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Jesus shows us how to love our enemies by opening up his heart to those who are killing him.
Pope Benedict, in his encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” (God is Love), says the only way we can understand this truth of who God is, is by contemplating the open side of Jesus on the cross. After Jesus takes his last breath on the cross, a Roman soldier plunges his spear into Jesus’ side, opening up for all to see the heart of the Son of God.
In that merciful heart we find our salvation when we make ourselves enemies of God by our sin. In that merciful heart, we find forgiveness for the hatred we carry toward those who have hurt us.
We come to that open heart because we know it is only by his love that we can find new life and the power to love as he does. Only by joining our heart to His Sacred Heart can we do good to those who hate us.
As we stand at the foot of the cross, we see more clearly the lies we live by. Such as: “People are supposed to get what they deserve and deserve what they get.” The truth revealed by the open heart of Jesus on the cross is that none of us actually deserves anything, and yet God has given us everything always.
Living by this truth moves us toward forgiveness of others, instead of judging and condemning them.
The “Sermon on the Plain” in Chapter 6 of Luke’s Gospel is about conversion, inviting us to join our lives more completely to Jesus. These powerful passages in Luke’s Gospel prepare us to enter the Holy Season of conversion, which is only ten days away.
The cross is the central symbol of Lent. During the 40 days of the Lenten Season we recall how we have been marked by the saving cross of Jesus in baptism, and how we are being called to die with him to all the ways we think without him and love without him.
Lent comes around every year as a gift so we might look more closely at our lives and see where they are not yet fully conformed to Christ. To ask the question: “Jesus, show me where I am still blind?” “Where am I still blind to your love and to your call to love with you?”
Lent is a special time of repentance, of turning back to Jesus Christ, of dying with him and rising with him, so we might think with Christ and love with Christ.
So that we can indeed live and love as children of the Most High God and “Be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful.”
Then in all cases and in every circumstance we can do to others as we would have them do to us.
Remember: we are not to do to others what they do to us, but what we would want them to do to us.
More to the point, we are to do to them what Jesus would do to us.
When we put on the mind of Jesus and join our hearts to his, then we can abide by this golden rule.