15 Luke 6:27-26: Another Little Easter

How I love the truth and tradition of every Sunday being celebrated as a Little Easter, for the mystery of His Holy Resurrection is the core reality not only of our Christian Faith, but of the very existence of all creation.

As I celebrated Holy Mass here in the apartment this morning, against a background of sirens, yelling people, on a day when in many countries of the world there are riots, civil war, famine, bombings, hurricanes, brush fires, births, marriages, working, eating, laughing, and, praying, I was so aware of the whole world, the whole human family.

At supper last evening with friends of a friend of mine the husband said he has never met a priest like myself. The difference he said is he finds young priests nowadays are arrogant and have little life experience. You, he said of myself, seem to care about people.

How true it is that a priest must have a passion for people, for his brothers and sisters.

The same passion for them as Christ has.

This came about in the conversation because I was there as much to enjoy their company as to do research for two books I am preparing: one on the priesthood and one on the Gospel and modern economies.

Reviewing the previous chapter of this work on my monastic years there came upon me a temptation to re-write or at least add to the material more details about those years.

I say temptation because in fact that is exactly what it is, a temptation.

It may seem a contradiction, given the detailed openness about the preceding period of my life, and the openness to follow, to be so spare of detail about those years in the monastic desert.

There is no contradiction.

While to a certain extent giving witness, such as in groups like AA, or here, or before a congregation testifying to the marvellous mercy of God in our lives to encourage others to accept Christ as our Saviour, is a holy thing, revealing too much, especially the intimate details between the Divine Bridegroom and we His beloved, is to ignore the sacredness of our being in the depths of our souls, truly, a garden enclosed [Sg. Of Sg. 4:12].

Since it is the Divine Bridegroom Himself who declares the sacredness of that ultimate inner depth, that virginal place within each soul where none other and nothing, no catastrophe, may have entrance save the Divine Bridegroom – and where He is there also is the Father and the Holy Spirit – what occurs there between the Blessed Trinity and the true self — for the false self can never enter this garden — is ineffable.


Not only can it not, but it would be a type of sacrilege to even attempt to express, reveal, to others — and in this case all others are indeed truly ‘ outsiders ‘ — what of love’s dialogue takes place within the garden.

So I prayed before the decision to write no more specifically about the monastic period of my life.

After that prayer the other day the phone rang and it was time to go to The Community’s house near here for the celebration of Holy Mass with my Spiritual Father who was visiting.

Before Mass we had a chance to go for a long walk and speak of many things, including how the sabbatical is going and this work.

During Holy Mass as he proclaimed the Holy Gospel my heart was struck that given what has been revealed so far, in particular the impact upon the hearts of readers of so much being endured at the hands or decisions of others, this may trigger within the reader some painful memories, perhaps even some anger towards those responsible for similar experiences of pain, including the self.

Maybe, even some anger towards God.

Before continuing the writing then, it seemed to my heart, there should be a meditation, a realization that as mysterious as the unfolding of our lives may be there is a sacred purpose to our being, Christ Himself, and that in Him all things are possible, as St. Paul reminds us [Rm. 8:28], keeping in mind that God is never outdone in generosity.


There is a danger — and not an unreal one since I was guilty of such judging and refusal to forgive myself for decades those who hurt me, sinned against me, rejected, abandoned, failed me in anyway — to become so caught up in pain and those who cause pain that we become a prisoner, an addict, of the pain and bitterness and wonder then why it seems all our prayer for relief is to no avail.

Certainly as I rode on the train away from the monastery after being so quickly, and without warning, dismissed, there was in my heart an overflow of stunned bitterness and anger, an acidic mixture which would gnaw at my heart and soul for decades, being added to all too frequently over the years.

I begin this meditation then in hopes it will reveal to your heart dear reader the essence of the monastic years, the truth of the conversion which later in life broke open my heart to Christ, the necessary first step to being freed of all sin and addiction, with an ancient prayer to the Holy Spirit that He will anoint these words of mine for you.

(It is the prayer I always say before any writing, preaching, and teaching.)


The Holy Gospel proclaimed by my Spiritual Father which was the vessel used by the Holy Spirit to pour this meditation into my heart was: LUKE 6:27-36!

This is the powerful: “But to you I say…” teaching where Jesus turns our relationship with others away from self and totally towards the other.

Indeed here too at the very end Jesus takes us beyond imitation of Himself, as critical as that is for us to truly live out the Gospel, further into the immensity and other centeredness of real love, as He calls us to be imitators of our Abba, of God the Father in His lavishness of merciful love [Lk.6:36].

To understand why, after two thousand years of Christianity such a core teaching of Jesus is not yet the ordinary way of daily life for the majority of Christians, there is an important insight found in the autobiography of St. Augustine:

 MY lovers of old, trifles and vanities of vanities, held me back. They plucked at my fleshly garment, and they whispered softly: “ Do you cast us off? “ and “ From that moment we shall no more be with you forever and ever! “ and again, “ From that moment no longer will this thing and that be allowed to you, forever and ever! “ What did they suggest by what I have called “ this thing and that, “ what, O my God, did they suggest? May Your mercy turn away all that from Your servant’s soul! What filth did they suggest! What deeds of shame! But now by far less than half did I hear them. For now it was not as if they were openly contradicting me, face to face, but as if they were muttering behind my back, and as if they were furtively picking at me as I left them, to make me look back again. Yet they did delay me, for I hesitated to tear myself away, and shake myself free of them, and leap over to that place where I was called to be. For an overpowering habit kept saying to me, “ Do you think that you can live without them?” [ak]

If we be honest within our own hearts, when we hear the words of Jesus spoken to us through the Holy Gospel,  for example in His conversation with the Rich Young Man [ Mt. 19:16ff], do we not repeat what rationalizations are whispered to us by our false selves or the father of confusion, the prince of darkness?

In Christian conversation with each other, let alone with those not of faith, do we feel a need to ‘ explain ‘ what Jesus really meant within the context of greedy, self-first modern life?

Are we so fearful of being somehow labelled as conservative or fundamentalist that we fail to conserve, preserve, and radically live the fundamentals of the Holy Gospel?

From pulpits do we hear an unmitigated commentary on how to truly live this passage as spoken by Jesus – a true call to live the Gospel without compromise?

Or do we hear some form of accommodation with the world psycho-tree-hugging-let’s-not-impose-on others babble?


St. Augustine very humbly shows why his conversion was such a long and laborious process. What holds true for the individual soul, as in Augustine’s conversion journey, the long struggle to finally open wide the doors of his being to Christ and with Christ to enter in and dwell from the core of the garden enclosed, appears to hold true for Christianity as a whole.

Hence the humble and passionate plea of Pope John Paul II that, as members of the Body of Christ, the Church, we beg forgiveness of those we have sinned against and be forgiving of those who sinned against us, throughout the entire first two millennia of Christianity.

Broken down into a list of what Jesus, in the passage from St. Luke 6: 27-36, tells us to do truly is a step by step process of loving one another.

A step to becoming in fact what Baptism initiates: our being formed by the Holy Spirit into alteris Christi!:


Love your enemies,
Do good to those who hate you,
Bless those who curse you,
Pray for those who mistreat you,
To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one,
From the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your
Give to everyone who asks of you,
From the one who takes what is yours, do not demand it back,
Do to others as you would have them do to you,
Love your enemies and do good to them,
Lend expecting nothing back,
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful!

Our culture, thanks in no small measure to the so-called ‘ talk ‘ shows on television and the so-called reality ‘ shows, as well as the particular slant given reports of various crimes, creates an atmosphere of blame and vengeance.

Our culture also appears to give litmus-test veracity to what our emotions tell us, hence dispassionate objective thinking is an ever rarer commodity in human interaction in our day.

To love my enemy is not a matter in the first instance of emotional response, but rather of a mature, reflective choice of my free will.

In a word I can listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit from the depths of the garden enclosed, or, I can listen to the whisperings of the father of lies from the depths of hell seeping into my subjective and disordered emotions.

Millions of people around the world saw on the television news one evening a man dressed in white, his back to the camera, sitting in a simple cell of a prison, leaning towards, conversing with, the very man who had earlier tried to murder him.

Pope John Paul showed the whole world how to love an enemy.

Now it may be argued that the further proof of this love would have been to see to it that the man was freed from jail.

That would have been a nice gesture, itself assuredly immediately second guessed in the press, but it would have denied the reality of justice which is itself a virtue.

To love an enemy does not mean denial of reality, for love and truth are inseparable.

Most of us will never have to forgive a murderer in the physical sense, though in our violent culture many may face such an heroic challenge to love.

Most of us will have to face those who have killed off our good name, or some joyful expectation, or a relationship, and the inner emotional upheaval can almost equate the emotional chaos and grief of death.

Who hates me is not a question easily answered objectively.

At some juncture in our lives most of us, perhaps especially parents and priests, have had some distraught person scream hatred at us.

But in truth who hates me?

Being a white-male there are those who hate me because I am white, others because I am male. Being a white-male-roman catholic-priest there are those who hate me for any part, or combination of, that definition.

In a word we can identify those who obviously hate us for reasons which, while they have an aspect of the personal about them, really amount to our being hated for generic reasons.

Who hates ‘me’ may require some humble reflection on my part, when that individual, (for please God there not be even one, even more please not more than one,) is known to my heart then Jesus’ command to do good- if I live out that command- becomes an occasion of conversion of my own heart, with its capability for bitterness and hatred, being transformed to a heart like His own { Mt.11:29},by the Holy Spirit at work in the good that I do.

When I’m in the express line at the grocery check-out counter and the old lady in front of me has enough items over the limit to cause a ripple of angry tension to wash along the line, what happens in my emotions is akin to, or at the very least the step-child of, hatred.

It becomes internalized though not as MY hating that old lady but clearly SHE must hate me to be doing this horrible thing to me, which is, causing my rush through life to be slowed down infinitesimally.

Not long after I was ordained I was visiting a confrere in his city and in an area of that city particularly hostile to Roman Catholics. My friend begged me not to walk about with my Roman collar on and explained his concern about the hostility it would trigger.

However I did wear my collar and it did trigger hostility, both verbal and physical by means of being spat upon.

Sometimes we are cursed and mistreated in an obvious way as children or adults, and sometimes it happens in ways that are not so obvious.

In either case our emotions figure in there rather radically and, tragically, our culture is full of so-called experts in various fields who will support, or worse suggest, that such and such an all too frequently emotional based response means of handling the process of vindication of our rights will set us free from the damage done……once the dust has settled the offender may, sometimes justly so, been jailed, sued, fired, divorced etc.,….but are we free?

The key to this whole teaching of Jesus, which does demand a radical living of the Gospel, is found in His final word here: BE MERCIFUL JUST AS YOUR FATHER IS MERCIFUL!

Even before telling us that this is the premise behind all the instructions on how to deal with enemies and attackers and the rest, Jesus tells us just HOW our Heavenly Father is merciful, a truth testified to every time the sun rises or the rains come down to refresh the earth [Mt.5:45]!

Why does all this loving, forgiving, enduring, sharing, gifting to those who clearly are enemy to us stand as so important a foundational reality of true discipleship?

 Jesus tells us quite bluntly we will only enter heaven if we have the heart of a child [Lk.18:17]: To become THAT childlike of heart we MUST love our enemies and do good for/to them!

This was not how my heart moved as the train took me away from the monastery anymore than it had been when seven years earlier the train had taken me away from the city of my birth to the monastery.

But seven years in the desert had planted remarkable seeds in the garden enclosed.

Decades would yet pass before those seeds would spring to life, watered by Divine Grace.

Here my heart felt the need however to insert these reflections lest the reader give in to the modern unwillingness to forgive in this culture of death addicted to a form of justice which is anger and hatred cloaked in lawsuits and so-called tough on crime politics, most anti-Gospel serious of all, Christians adhere to those attitudes!

Most importantly of all though, for the Holy Gospel MUST be the template of my life and not the litmus test I perform on others, I, in the writing of the events of my life, must not fail to reveal how much I have been forgiven, and therefore  I must: ‘go and do likewise’, in imitation of our All-Merciful Father.