Take a moment and pause, try to put yourself in the mindset of an American in 1863. It is the middle a grueling civil war, a civil war fought between brother and neighbor. A split of adversity that seems almost impossible to overcome. Abraham Lincoln recognizes the war as a failure of our human nature, and He addressed the United States with the following proclamation:
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart… as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
At a time when it seemed impossible to love your enemy, President Lincoln calls on the entire nation to set aside our ordinary pursuits of this world to pray for peace, and love of neighbor once more.
In Today’s Gospel passage (2nd Sunday of Luke) we see Christ address what we know as the greatest commandment, "You shall love the lord with all of your heart and soul and mind; and you shall Love your neighbor as yourself." In this passage from the Gospel of Luke, he extends the question who is my neighbor?
It is easy for us, It is natural for us to love our friends and family. Nobody asks us to do this, it is a bond that we share from birth, one that can never be fully explained. The love that is created between a parent and their child may be the closest we can come to understand the love that God has for us, His own creation. Christ calls us to “Love your enemies and and expect nothing in return.” Today's gospel perfectly exemplifies our call as the Church, our call to be members of the body of Christ.
Are we called to minister to the faithful or to the those who are lost? Christ emphasizes in the gospel reading today “For even sinners love those who love them.” We are called to break from what has become the status norm of today. We were not created to be of this world but to be with God in heaven. And to achieve this we must fully display the glory of God in all of our actions. We need to not just love our enemies, we must care for them.
The passage today concludes saying, "Be merciful even as your Father is merciful." This is one of those moments where we are put at a slight disadvantage with the English translation.
The Greek word used for merciful in this passage is οἰκτίρμων (oiktirmon), not Ἐλεῆµον, (Eleimon), a word we are more accustomed to associating with the word mercy. How is this different than the idea of mercy when we pray Κύριε, ἐλέησον (Kyrie Eleison)?
Oἰκτίρμων is a mercy of compassion, Ἐλεῆµον is a mercy of pity. We pray, over and over again, Κύριε, ἐλέησον , asking God to have mercy over us who are broken, we are asking for Him to forgive us for our shortcomings.
The mercy we ask for when we pray Κύριε, ἐλέησον is a mercy that only a father can have on his child.
The mercy we are called to give, a mercy of compassion. Compassion is the path that guides us to become like God. When we exhibit compassion on our enemies, it starts a chain reaction of charity. It costs us nothing to have compassion on those whom we love. However to show true compassion to our enemies forces us to leave our own will aside and take on the will of God. We begin to sacrifice for those in need, in the same way Christ exclaimed on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”
When we bring compassion on those who hate us we begin to let the image of Christ we are created in truly shine with the glory of God. The image of Christ we begin to emulate through this simple act of charity should become second nature to us, breaking the mold of the world around us, and creating a small nucleus of what the Church is meant to be, that nucleus then becomes an archetype of the Church in our own homes. “Love your enemies and expect nothing in return; and your reward will be great! “
Saint John Chrysostom says “When we teach our children to be good, to be gentle, to be forgiving (all these are attributes of God), to be generous, to love their follow men, to regard this present age as nothing, we instill virtue in their souls, and reveal the image of God within them.”
In the epistle reading today,(2nd Sunday of Luke) St. Paul writes, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Let us sow these virtues of God such that we may see them multiply through our children, and from them we can transfigure the whole of creation to shine with the glory of God!