Today we hear the continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. Over the passage of time, and the familiarity that we have with this message, it may not seem as radical to us as it would have sounded that day. However, what Jesus says is radical and is unachievable without the grace of God.

Sometimes it feels difficult to love our neighbour, but now we are being asked to love our enemies too. Jesus is telling us that our faith is not a passive faith, our faith only comes alive when we put it into action. When we consider our enemies, Jesus is saying that we can never achieve true peace by being passive [sitting back waiting for something to happen], we need to be bold and be prepared to make the first move. This should be done in love.

An example of this was Gordon Wilson. Gordon lost his daughter in the Enniskillen bombing on Remembrance Sunday in 1987. Gordon was a devout Methodist, and he spent the rest of his life working for peace in Ireland. He forgave the killers of his daughter and won admiration from people around the world for his public forgiveness. Gordon held no bitterness, he moved on, accepting that his daughter’s death had to mean something in God’s plan. I don’t know if I could put my faith in action under such circumstances, I pray that I am never tested in that way. Gordon’s faith and the peace of mind it gave him enabling him to dedicate his life to peace and reconciliation in Ireland is inspirational.

In the first reading today, we are being urged not to hold grudges, if someone has done something to upset us we are asked to tell them. God gave this message to Moses, so that he could share it with the whole community. We in turn need to accept that if someone tells us something we have done to upset them, and they tell us out of love for us, then we have to accept it in love too. When we upset someone we need to ask for their forgiveness and when someone upsets us, we need to tell them and when they seek forgiveness, we need to forgive. This is how communities develop a deep trust in each other and it is how communities thrive.

Although I have been at St Bede’s just a few short years I have seen four priests leave the Parish, I have been present for the final Mass of three of them and I was struck how they all asked for forgiveness for any hurt they caused during their time here. I’d like to ask you all that if there is anything I do or have done to upset you, please tell me at the earliest opportunity. I don’t want you to live with any resentment or hurt in your heart and I would like to seek your forgiveness and mend my ways as soon as possible. This is what God asked the Chosen People to do; we are the Chosen people of the New Covenant, we need to be honest with ourselves and each other; we need to love each other.

In the second reading St Paul reminds us that we all belong to God and that all earthly things are not as valuable as we may think. Sure, we may admire some people for their wisdom, or their ability to debate or speak in public. But true wisdom comes from God and it is only by knowing God and loving God that we can ever receive true wisdom.

It is that true wisdom that allows us to put our faith into action, to love the unlovable and forgive the unforgiveable, because that is what Jesus did. When we consider the worst sins we have committed and we recognise that despite these sins, which we think makes us unlovable, Jesus still loves us and wants us. We just need to admit our sins and seek forgiveness for them.

We enter into the penitential season of Lent next Wednesday, and we often look for things to do, maybe fast from certain foods or drinks, or say extra prayers or spend more time reading Scripture. We also need to remember that this is a time to try harder not to sin, it is a time to seek forgiveness. [The Pastoral Area Reconciliation service is on the evening of Thursday 23rd March at St Bede’s].

If there is someone in your life who has hurt you or you know that you have hurt then I urge you to make the first move. Use this time to seek peace in your life. Jesus calls us to love our enemies. Love can destroy hatred; love restores peace and builds relationships.

Remember Gordon Wilson, he managed to forgive what many would see as unforgiveable, when his daughter was killed by terrorists. What or who do we need to forgive in our lives today?

Further Reading

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 1933, 2303: love of neighbour incompatible with hatred of enemies
CCC 2262-2267: prohibition to harm others apart from self-defence
CCC 2842-2845: prayer and pardon of enemies
CCC 2012-2016: the heavenly Father’s perfection calls all to holiness
CCC 1265: we become temples of the Holy Spirit in baptism
CCC 2684: saints are temples of the Holy Spirit

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • The success of the pastoral area formation programme ‘The Wild Goose’ which we are using as part of the Year of the Holy Spirit.
  • Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
  • Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
  • All of our young people preparing for the Sacraments.
  • Those attending our RCIA programme.