Loving without measure

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

After proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus continued to teach the crowd on the high ideals He has set for His followers (Lk. 6:27–38). Though at first sight what Jesus teaches — “love your enemies” and “do not judge others” — appears to run counter to our human instinct, — they are really the bases for individual and societal peace. With courage and God's grace we can make them not only our guide through life but our own way of life itself.

Some time ago, the Reader's Digest published a story which can help illustrate what Jesus means by loving one's enemies and not judging others. As we know, in times past and perhaps still true today in rural areas, Chinese parents arranged the marriages of their children. One such marriage took place between a couple who had never seen each other before. When the veil was lifted after the ceremony, the groom was horrified by what he saw: his bride's face was badly scarred by smallpox. Feeling cheated and angry, he escaped from his home the same evening. However, cultural and family pressures being so strong — specially that of losing face, — he was made to return to her. But his anger remained unabated. He humiliated and maltreated her at every opportunity. As a result, she never felt the tenderness of her husband's love and his appreciation. Yet she served him faithfully and lived only for him.

As they grew older, the man got blind. To regain his sight, he needed a cornea transplant. But with very few donors and with hospitals flooded with applicants, he felt that his was a hopeless case. But one day he was asked to go to the hospital as a donor had been found. The operation was a success.

When he regained his sight, he discovered to his great surprise that it was his wife who had donated one of her eyes. That was the moment of truth for him: he saw the power of true love and it made him a changed man.

We do not know if the Chinese woman was a Christian. Regardless, what Jesus said on loving our enemies can be easily said of her: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well.... Give to everyone who asks of you... Love your enemies and do good to them... Lend expecting nothing back.... Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful....” The same can be said of Jesus' teaching on not judging others: “Stop judging and you will not be judged.... Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

Jesus sums everything up with a positive re–statement of the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” And if one does all that Jesus taught then “your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”

Humanly speaking, the young wife, after suffering all kinds of evil from her husband, could have easily left him and returned to her parent's home. Or when her husband got blind, she could have easily said to herself, “Finally, his evil ways have caught up with him.” But no, she did not return evil for evil. Instead, she made one more sacrifice: she gave one of her corneas so he could see again. It was this one final act that won her husband's heart for her.

As followers of Jesus, we are asked to love our enemies. Love those who have destroyed our reputation through gossip or turned our children into drug addicts, etc.? How can we? But Jesus says we must. More, He asks us not only to love them but also to do good to them! This last is the key to turning a difficult situation around. If we return evil for evil, violence for violence, what results is a never–ending cycle of evil and violence. Thus a step, a risk, must be taken to reverse this cycle: do good to our enemies.

This is what Jesus struggled to do throughout His life. He offered love first even if He knew that it would not be returned measure for measure. Ultimately, this costs Him His life — on the cross. But this cross become the sign and reality of God's reconciliation with man.

What happened next? Sinful humanity has realized that love creates its own reality, that it becomes its own force for goodness, that a sincerely offered love can touch the innermost depths of a loveless person and set to flame once again the dying embers of love. This enables him, though at first with great hesitation, to return love for love. In effect, we really do not know what lies in a person's heart and the quantity and quality of love it can unleash. Thus Jesus' admonition not to judge others.

This is what we saw happen to the loveless husband as a result of his wife's enduring love for him. This is what Jesus asks of us if we are to remain His true disciples.