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272Homily for 10/07/03 - P19 - Love your enemies

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  • Fr David Moser
    Oct 7, 2007
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      Luke 6:31-36

      Last week we heard in the Gospel the necessity of giving up our own life
      in order that we may acquire the Life of Christ in exchange. Acquiring
      the Holy Spirit, as St Seraphim puts it, is a lifelong process and one
      that involves constantly choosing our way of life on the basis of what
      will bring to us the greatest spiritual benefit. The Gospel teaches how
      to make these choices and today in the Gospel we heard one of the most
      important general principles which is often referred to as “the Golden
      Rule”: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” But this is not
      just about “acting nice” towards others so that they will in turn “act
      nice” towards you. This spiritual saying is one of the most difficult
      things in the Christian life. In order for us to understand what it
      means in the process of acquiring Christ, our Lord expounds on it
      somewhat, for He goes right on saying that we must love our enemies and
      do good and give to others hoping for nothing in return. These are
      difficult sayings! for to love our enemies goes against our very nature
      and self interest and yet it goes right to the core of acquiring the
      Life of Christ. What is the Life of Christ if it is not to love as God
      loves, to be filled with the love of God and to express that love in all
      that we do. The athonite elder Porphyrios expresses the necessity of
      love for one another in this way:
      “Above everything is love. The thing that must concern you, my children,
      is love for the other person, for his soul. Whatever we do, whether it
      is prayer or offering advice or pointing out some error, let us do it
      with love. Without love prayer is of no benefit, advice is hurtful and
      pointing out errors is harmful and destructive to the other person who
      senses whether we love him or not and reacts accordingly. Love, love,
      love! Love for our brother prepares us to love Christ more. Isn't that
      perfect?
      Let us scatter our love selflessly to all, without regard to the way
      they act towards us. When the grace of God enters us, we will not be
      con¬cerned about whether they love us or not or whether they speak to us
      politely or not. We will feel the need to love all people. It's egotism
      on our part to wish for others to speak to us politely. If they don't we
      shouldn't be upset. Let them speak to us as they wish. We needn't
      be¬come beggars for love. Our aim should be to love them and pray for
      them with all our soul.”

      See the importance that he places not only on the love of God, but
      especially on the love of others as the means of loving God more. That
      we should love all without regard for who they are or what they have
      done is contained in the simple statement, “Let us scatter our love
      selflessly to all”

      Even when we recognize the necessity of loving all people without regard
      for who they are – even to the extreme of loving our enemies, the
      question remains of how we can do this. The elder helps us again with
      this difficulty:

      “If your brother is annoying you and wearying you, you should think:
      'Now I’ve got a pain in my arm or leg and I’ll need to tend it with all
      my love:…When someone injures us in whatever way, whether with slanders
      or with insults, we should think of him as our brother who has been
      taken hold of by the enemy. He has fallen victim to the enemy.
      Accordingly we need to have compassion for him and entreat God to have
      mercy both on us and on him, and God will help both. If, however, we are
      filled with anger against him, then the enemy will jump from him to us
      and make a mockery of us both. A person who condemns others does not
      love Christ. Our egotism is at fault. This is where condemnation of
      oth¬ers stems from. Let me give you a little example:
      Let's suppose someone is all alone in the desert. Suddenly he hears a
      voice crying out in distress in the distance. He follows the sound and
      is confronted by a horrendous sight: a tiger has grabbed hold of a man
      and is savaging him with its claws. The man is desperately shouting for
      help. In a few minutes he will be tom to pieces. What can the person do
      to help? Can he run to his side? How? It's impossible. Can he shout for
      help? Who will hear him? There is no one within earshot. Should he
      perhaps pick up a stone and throw it at the man to finish him off?
      Certainly not; we would say. But that's is exactly what can happen if we
      don't realize that the other person who is acting badly towards us has
      been taken hold of by a tiger, the devil. We fail to realize that when
      we react to such a per¬son without love it is as if we are throwing
      stones at his wounds and ac¬cordingly we are doing him great harm and
      the 'tiger' leaps onto us and does to us the same as him and worse. What
      kind of love do we have then for our neighbour and, even more
      importantly, for God?
      We should feel the malice of the other person as an illness which is
      tormenting him and which he is unable to shake off. And so we should
      regard our brethren with sympathy and behave with courtesy towards them,
      repeating in our hearts with simplicity the prayer 'Lord Jesus Christ',
      so that the grace of God may strengthen our soul and so that we don't
      pass judgment on anyone. We should regard all people as saints. We all
      carry within us the same old self. Our neighbour, whoever he is, is
      'flesh of our flesh'; he is our brother and, according to Saint Paul, we
      owe no one anything, except to love one another. We can never pass
      judg¬ment on others, for no one ever hated his own flesh.
      When someone has a vice we should try to bombard him with rays of love
      and compassion so that he may be cured and freed. These things are
      achieved only through the grace of God. Think that this person is
      suffering more than you.”

      See how he has turned the wrongs that others do to us away from a
      personal assault and into the symptoms of an illness which torments them
      and which we can strive to cure. Now we no longer need to look at our
      enemies with anger or even defensiveness, but rather we see them as ones
      who are ill who require our sympathy and compassion. We can see that the
      most effective treatment is not to make it worse by adding our anger to
      theirs, but rather to counteract their anger and aggression with the
      healing love which comes from God.

      The secret which we must always remember is to deal with situations in a
      spiritual way rather than in a worldly way for we are no longer of this
      world, but we have become citizens of the Kingdom of God. Saint Symeon
      the New Theologian writes in a similar vein:

      “We need to regard all of the faithful as one and think that each one of
      them is Christ. We need to have such love for each individual that we
      are ready to sacrifice our very life for him. Because we ought never to
      say or think that any person is evil, but rather to regard all as good.
      And if you see a brother troubled by passions, do not hate him. Hate
      rather the pas¬sions that are assailing him. And if you see that he is
      being tormented by desires and habits from former sins, have even
      greater compassion on him, lest you also fall into temptation, since you
      are made of matter that easily turns from good to evil. Love for your
      brother prepares you to love God more. Accordingly, the secret of love
      for God is love for your brother. Because if you don't love your brother
      whom you see, how can you possibly love God whom you don't see? He who
      does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he
      has not seen?”

      Brothers and sisters, let us take to heart the words of the Gospel today
      and make them our own, “love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend,
      hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall
      be the children of the Highest”

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org