In Gospel reading (Luke 2:22-35), the parents of baby Jesus are told that their little child will become the downfall and the rise of many, that he’ll be a sign that the world will contradict, and that, because of this, the thoughts of many would be exposed in the light of truth. In other words, through the conflict stirred up by the life of Jesus, good and evil will become clearly defined.
If we’re going to birth Jesus more fully into the world, we will live the truth. Today’s world is full of moral relativism; the line between what is holy and what is sinful has been greatly blurred by the idea that “everyone is right in their own opinions about right and wrong.” Wrong! It’s only God’s opinion that is correct, and he clearly spells out moral absolutes. But societal acceptance of moral relativism has gone so far as to produce an environment where we’re supposed to believe that good is evil and evil is good.
Jesus defined the difference between holiness and sin through his teachings and by his example. Consider how right it feels to believe: “Love others based on how good they are to you.” But Jesus said: “Love even your enemies!”
This includes: “Love the child you want to abort. Love the person you divorced. Love the sinners who deserve capital punishment. Love your lover so much that you join God in the Sacrament of Marriage rather than cohabitate or live in a civil-only marriage. Love your spouse so much that you unite with God in creating new life or by getting involved in ministry together. If you’re not heterosexual, love Jesus so much that you embrace celibacy. And love those who oppose you for standing firm in the truth.”
Love is the bottom line, the big line, the only line: Love God enough to embrace his moral teachings; love others enough to bring Christ to them with his teachings intact. Love so radically that the world opposes you for it. Jesus’ message of unconditional, radical love was the sign that people opposed. They opposed him all the way to the cross.
His message of love exposed the thoughts of many hearts. No longer can we hide our hatred and unforgiveness, pretending goodness behind the mask of politeness. In the Old Testament, if you did evil to me, the Law gave me permission to do the same evil back to you. I did not have to deal with the unforgiveness in my heart. But Jesus took that away in one simple message: “When someone does you wrong, do good in return.” And when we don’t, our unforgiveness for the evil-doer is plainly obvious in our behaviors, because we seem to be very unlike Christ.
That’s why this reading tells us that if we claim to be living in the light of Christ while hating our brother, we’re really in darkness. We might pretend to be following Jesus when our lives contradict his teachings, but the contradiction reveals the truth about us. On the other hand, if we do as he says, the love of God becomes perfect (i.e., full or complete) in us.
Why is it so important to God that we love even those who don’t deserve it? Is it because he cares about them or pities them more than he cares about us? Of course not! He wants us to give birth to Jesus in their lives. And he wants us to benefit from letting go of unforgiveness, because then the evil-doer no longer has control of our emotions.
This is very right, very holy!
© 2015 by Terry A. Modica