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Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P.
7th Sunday (A) Peace Is Possible If We...

      I’d like to share with you some quotes, a story and a poem.

      In today’s gospel reading, imagine yourself in the crowd, and you hear some of the people responding to what Jesus is saying.  Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

     You hear one person in the crowd says, “You have got to be kidding.”

     Another says, “Hey, what a novel idea.”

     A third person says, “That’s not going to catch on.”

     How would you respond?

     If Lincoln were in the crowd he would have said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” (Those are his words.)

     If Martin Luther King Jr. were in the crowd he would have said, There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” (Those are his words.)

     Oscar Wilde would have said, “Always forgive your enemies.  Nothing annoys them so much.”  (Jesus might not approve that motivation.)

     If William Longfellow were in the crowd, he would say, “If we knew the secret history of our enemies, we would find suffering and sorrow enough to destroy all hostility.”

     I have a longer quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.  He said, “Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long.

     Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load.

     That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.” (from "Loving Your Enemies")” 

     There is a story told of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania during the American Revolution. He enjoyed the friendship of George Washington.  In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, a troublemaker who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die. Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.

     “No, Peter,” General Washington said. “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.”

     “My friend!” exclaimed the old preacher. “He’s the bitterest enemy I have.”

     “What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” And he did.

     Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata—no longer an enemy but a friend.

     When Matthew has Jesus saying, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” the Greek word suggests completeness, wholeness.  Where Luke records Jesus’ words of love of enemies, he concludes with Jesus saying,  “Be merciful even as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36).

     In a word, we are challenged to be holy by lavishing unconditional mercy and unconditional love.  That imitates Jesus who shows us the Father. 

     Finally this poem by James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859):

 

 

 

ABOU BEN ADHEM (may his tribe increase!)

 

 

Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,

 

 

And saw—within the moonlight in his room,

 

 

Making it rich and like a lily in bloom—

 

 

An angel, writing in a book of gold.

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Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,

 

 

And to the presence in the room he said,

 

 

‘What writest thou?’—The vision raised its head,

 

 

And, with a look made of all sweet accord,

 

 

Answered, ‘The names of those who love the Lord.’

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‘And is mine one?’ said Abou. ‘Nay, not so,’

 

 

Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,

 

 

But cheerly still, and said, ‘I pray thee, then,

 

 

Write me as one that loves his fellow men.’

 

 

 

 

 

The angel wrote and vanished. The next night

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It came again with a great wakening light,

 

 

And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,

 

 

And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

 

     By God’s grace may our names, and eventually the names of our enemies, be on that list.