Sunday Reflection – 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – The Unconditional Love of God

The Unconditional Love of God

This Sunday’s Gospel (Matt 5:38-48) is the fourth excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount, the charter of the Kingdom of God, the description of a Christian life.

Last Sunday Jesus gave us a new understanding of three commandments, moving from what “You have learnt from what is said” to “But I say to you”.

This Sunday, the same formula of advancing from the past to the new ideals of Jesus is repeated.  He gives three examples of where the accepted standard of the past needs to be replaced by a new sort of love which refuses to be contaminated by the wrongdoing of another.  Offer the wicked person no resistance.  “If someone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well”.  Determination to remain positive is greater than temper.

If someone takes you to court to claim your outer tunic, let him have your inner tunic also to show that your detachment is greater than his greed.  This is exactly what Francis of Assisi did in his decision to leave his father’s drapery business when he discerned his calling to live the gospel.

A Roman soldier had the right to commandeer someone (like Simon of Cyrene) to carry his bag for a thousand steps, but offering to go the extra mile with a smile is a way of stating that helpfulness is more important than weapons.

Do we let the brutish bullyboys, the greedy moneymakers or advocates of military superiority continue to rule society with their small minds?  An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will leave the world blind and hungry.  The ideal of Christ is to show that his sort of love refuses to be contaminated by the wrongdoing of another.  His love is greater than all the wrongs of the world.  It’s a lofty ideal that will only be reached by the grace of God.  Indeed, the ideal is so lofty that Jesus said, “You must therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”   Perfect here means a love that is universal and complete.

The Holy Spirit offers supernatural assistance

The most severe testing of genuine Christianity is the willingness to forgive.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church admits that human nature on its own will be unable to find forgiveness, but with the aid of the Holy Spirit a new way of seeing the past opens up.  One begins to remember the past with the heart and eyes of Christ.

“It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offence; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory into transforming the hurt into intercession” (Catechism 2834).

Think of the Holy Spirit like a helicopter lifting us up to a height where we have a wider vista of the road of life.  Now we can see where the wrongdoer has come from.  Now we view our enemy as a person very sick in mind and spirit, and we begin to have pity on that sick, unhappy person.  That is how the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion.

The Spirit also opens up the road ahead and we see what a dreadfully unhappy future lies in store for the person who hurts others.  So, we pray for his/her healing and conversion.  Thus “the Holy Spirit purifies the memory into transforming the hurt into intercession.”

Spirit-filled forgiveness is the mark of genuine children of our Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad people as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest people alike.  God’s love is not selective.  It is universal.  God’s unconditional love is not based on what a person has merited.  It is always 100%.

Love is a decision to be always positive

Love is a word much used today but Christ’s concept of love is little understood.  It goes far beyond infatuation which is temporary.  It goes beyond the friendship between people who share interests or complement each other’s character.  Christian love resides in the will.  It is a decision that determines how a person wants to live.  According to Saint Paul, love is always patient and kind; never jealous, boastful or conceited; never rude and never seeks its own advantage.  It does not take offence or store up grievances.  Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.  It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and endure whatever comes (1 Cor: 13:4-7).  Lent, beginning next Wednesday, will be an opportunity to take Christlike love more seriously.

Saint Josephine Bakhita

I began writing this reflection on the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita (February 8th).  It struck me that she was a great model of the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  Who was she?  Born in Sudan in 1869, at the age of nine she was kidnapped, forcibly marched under the tropical sun for eight days and then sold as a slave.  She was mistreated by five violent masters, one of whom repeatedly whipped her.  Her life changed when she was acquired by an Italian family who treated her well.  They brought her to Venice where she worked around the house and minded the baby.  She was taken into a convent school for education.  She was so impressed by the Sisters that she asked to be baptised.  She joined the convent and impressed everybody with her humble service, prayerfulness and calmness.  There was not an ounce of bitterness against those who had brutally treated her.  She regarded those dreadful years as the passage to her Calvary where she came to know Jesus Christ. She resolved to be like him.  It was said that her mind was always on Christ while her heart was in Sudan.  She was a model of how Christian love is greater than bitterness.  As Pope Francis wrote, what Jesus brought to the world is a revolution of tenderness

Reponsorial Prayer

The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.

He does not treat us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our faults.

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins.

As a father has compassion on his sons, the Lord has pity on those who fear him.


Br Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.