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7th Sunday OT – Year A - Fr. Alberic Maisog

-Many years ago Newsweek magazine carried a moving story. What first got you interested in the story was the photograph that accompanied it. It showed three boys, ages seven to eleven, kneeling in the front pew of a church. Below the photograph were the words, “This Was Left Behind.”

-The story went on to say that the eldest boy, Jerry, always turned on the radio immediately after he woke up in the morning. He liked to listen to the news while he dressed for school.

-This particular morning the news was bad. Someone had placed a bomb in United Airlines Flight #629. It exploded over Colorado in midair, killing 44 persons. Jerry finished dressing and started down the stairs. As he did, he saw his grandmother and the parish priest standing at the foot of the stairs.

-Jerry took one look at them and said, “My mother and father were in that plane, weren’they.” Jerry was right. Later that day the children of St. Gabriel’s, where Jerry and his brothers attended school, asked their pastor for a prayer service for their three classmates. The pastor asked Jerry if this would be all right. Jerry said it would. Then he added, “Could we also pray for the man who killed my mother and father.”

-The story illustrates Christ’s commandment in today’s Gospel, when He says: “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.”

-It’s interesting that the hero in that story is a child. Somehow children seem to understand the difficult teachings of Christ so much better than adults do. Perhaps that’s why Christ said, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

-This raises a question that all of us must face squarely and honestly. What do we do if we find it impossible to love an enemy? What do we do if we find it impossible to pray for someone who has hurt us deeply? What do we do if we find it impossible to forgive a certain person?

-We can do three things. The first thing we can do is to ask for the grace to forgive the person. During World War II, Corrie ten Boom was a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck. After the war she traveled about Europe, giving talks and urging citizens of rival nations to forgive one another for war crimes.

-One night, after a talk in Munich, Germany, a man approached her and held out his hand in a gesture of reconciliation. When Corrie saw who it was, she was shocked. It was one of the most hated guards of the camp where she had been a prisoner. Corrie froze. Try as she may, she couldn’t reach out and take his hand. As she stood there she began to pray, saying, “Jesus, I cannot forgive this man. Help me to forgive him.”

-At that moment some mysterious power helped her reach out and take the man’s hand in true forgiveness. That episode taught Corrie an important truth. The same Jesus who gave us the command to love our enemies gives us the grace to obey the command. All we need to do is ask for it.

-This brings us to the second thing we can do. Besides asking for the grace to forgive our enemies, we can also pray for their well-being. We can do what the Lord Jesus did on the cross when He prayed for His executioners, saying: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Those who have prayed for enemies testify that a remarkable thing happens in the process of praying for them.

-One person explained it this way: “When I want to change a negative attitude toward someone, all I have to do is to begin praying for them. After about a week of prayer, my attitude toward them begins to change. I don’t know how it works, but it does.”

-This brings us to the third thing we can do. Besides praying for the grace to forgive another, and besides praying for that

Person’s welfare, we can also try to see the person in a new light. Commenting on this, one person said: “If we could get inside the heart of our enemy and walk around in it, we would find enough pain and sorrow there to disarm us of all hostility toward that person for the rest of our lives.”

-We would then see people not as enemies but as human beings. We would see them as brothers and sisters who have their own special song to sing, their own special act of love to bestow, and their own special message to speak to the world – just like us. We would see them as God saw them when He created them. We would see them as the Lord Jesus saw them when He died on the cross for them.

-And so if we find it hard to love our enemies, there are three things we can do. First, we can ask for the grace to love them. Second, we can pray for their welfare. Third, we can try to see them in a new light. We can try to see them as fellow human beings whom God loved enough to create and whom the Lord Jesus loved enough to die for.

-Let’s close with a prayer: Lord, help us love those whom we find difficult to love. Bless them with your grace. Help them develop into the persons you saw they could become when you created them. Help us see them through your eyes for what they really are, brothers and sisters, not enemies. For this is what you desire: to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect, and to be holy as God is holy.

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