1 Kings 2:17-29; Psalm 51; Matthew 5:43-48
The First Reading pauses its narrative about the encounter of Elijah and Ahab and says Indeed, there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. He acted most abominably in going after idols. For the divine author, Ahab was the worst of all because he acted MOST ABOMINABLY in going after idols. Yet, when he heard Elijah’s rebuke, Ahab repented which caused God to say Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster on his house. God forgave the man who acted most abominably when he repented.
This is what Jesus means when he said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. To love our enemies is to be ready to forgive them, to constantly pray for them. We cannot withhold mercy from them, just because they have done evil to us. This does not mean we should like them. Jesus commands us to love our enemies, not like them. We can love others even if we do not like them. We can also like people without loving them.
What is the difference of liking someone and loving someone? Liking people is an emotion that comes and goes. We do not have control over that. But loving someone is an act of the will. This, we can control. Jesus said, be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. He can tell us this, because God IS perfect. How does God love? He emptied himself to us by sending us his Son to save us, to endure the shame and abuse at the hands of human beings. God willingly forgives our sins, not because he has to, but because he wants to, out of love for us. This constant emptying of God to us is his sign of his love for us.
Which is why, when the man who did the most abominable things repented, God forgives him. God wants everyone to enjoy life in union with him, forever. If that plan is not enough, God shows us his love by doing everything for us. The Responsorial Psalm asks God to blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity. Cleanse me from my sin. When God forgives our sins, he takes them away from us. He makes us righteous to stand before him. BUT this also means that we have to take responsibility for the consequence of our actions, we need to do penance for the consequence of our actions. Repentance repairs our relationship with God. This is a spiritual reality done by God’s grace. Penance makes visible our repentance, not for others to see, but for us to remember:
- God has forgiven our sins. This reminds us that salvation is a free gift from God. This is important because when we are hounded by guilt, we can point back to a specific point in time and space when God has forgiven our sins.
- We have repented of our sins and we will strive to not sin again.
- We need to repair what we have damaged. We need to take responsibility for what we have done./li>
Lord, I know I have sinned and failed you. I come before you with my sins. I have been burdened by guilt, I have been hounded by it, running away from it. I come to you because I am tired of running. I am tired of this burden and I believe you are the God who loves me so much, that you sent your Son to take away the sins of the world. Take away my sins. I repent of my sins and want you to take over my life. I surrender to you. Heal me Lord.