Catholic Men’s Lenten Gospel Pilgrimage – 1st Week of Lent – Saturday – Matt 5:43-48
After commanding for men to be merciful (turn the other cheek, go the extra mile) when faced with evil and injustice in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ calls His disciples to a revolutionary kind of love that extends to not only Israel’s neighbors (other Jews) but to enemies, including all Gentiles. Christ’s call to love enemies was completely countercultural in the ancient Middle East and in most places today.
Rather than the Old Covenant law of loving one’s neighbor and hating one’s enemies, Christ commands His disciples to love everyone. His edict of love has no exceptions even for Gentiles and tax collectors. Rather than simply not retaliating when attacked, Christ requires His disciples to refuse to hate their persecutors and, even more radical, to pray for them.
Christ offers a compelling rationale for why men should take up His call to revolutionary love: God loves all men (sending sun and rain to all) and so those who aspire to be sons of God must love like God does; disciples must strive to be more holy than others who love their own kind (Gentiles, tax collectors), going further to extend love to all men including enemies; disciples must strive for perfection in imitation of the Heavenly Father who is perfection.
1) Understood in context, the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ are shocking not only because they overturn thousand-year-old rules but because they overturn men’s standards for “justice” today. Reflect on Christ’s genius and courage in issuing His world-changing commandments.
2) In opposition to the evil political efforts to divide people into warring factions, Christ calls for Catholic men to reject division and be unified with all men. During Lent, reflect on the Catechism’s teaching about Social Justice (CCC 1928-1948) and pray for Christ to help you respect the human dignity of all people.
3) Men instinctually react with violence (physical and mental) when threatened. While some men can suppress the outer acts of hatred (e.g. verbal or physical assault), eliminating the inner acts of hatred (mentally judging and condemning others) is impossible without Christ. During Lent, reflect on the need for a Conversion of the Heart (CCC 821,1430-33,1856, 1888, 2608-09, 2708) and pray for Christ to convert your heart so you may joyfully love of all people.