Such a challenging Gospel today from Luke 6: 27-38! Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who persecute you. Offer the other cheek. Give away your coat. Give to everyone. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Expect nothing in return. Be kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as God is merciful. Do not judge. Do not condemn. Forgive. Give. Whoa! That is a whole lot of recommendations on how to live.
A good measure, pressed down shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back. A quote by St. John Chrysostom at the end of the readings explains further this litany of rules: We cannot be saved by seeking just our own individual salvation. We need to look first to the good of others. Christians do not walk a solo journey. We are part of a community–a global village even. What we do or do not do impacts others. If we chose to live within this set of rules, what would our world look like? Would we look with kindness on the beggar on the street corner? Would peace reign in families, communities, the work place, and the world? Would every act we do be a blessing?
Rosh Hashanah arrives next week for our Jewish brothers and sisters. I love this feast. The New Year brings an opportunity for healing and forgiveness in the days that follow. One year after celebrating Rosh Hashanah with friends, after a difficult time with a friend, I asked if we might use a Buddhist flower watering ceremony that I had learned to try to reconcile our differences. I am not sure that really helped me either other than I was able to say things I had not been able to say. Honesty had been lacking at times in our conversations and I had found my voice. The relationship had caused me a lot of angst and pain. I needed some healing. When I reflect back on it, for many reasons the friendship was very unbalanced and unhealthy. Both of us were at fault. Perhaps had we followed more of the recommendations above, things might have ended differently.
I think part of what happened is that I was constantly pressing down my measure and expecting too much from someone who was at that point unable to give much of anything in return. In looking to the good of others, we must still look after ourselves and I had stopped doing that. These readings can be misunderstood if we do not do unto ourselves as we would like to do unto others. We must find a balance of giving and receiving, of being selfless and selfish. A good measure means giving what we can and more but without harming ourselves too. We can trust that God will show us the way and we should ask for guidance. We need to honour ourselves as children of the Creator too. These lessons push us to look at our motivations, our wounds and our limits. They also call us to reach beyond our comfort zones, to seek mercy, and to show compassion. May God bless us in our trying to do good.
Which of these recommendations is hardest for you to follow?
How could living in such a manner change you?
Creator God, you are a chef,
pouring into us compassion and mercy
mixing in love and joy
measuring each cup
with wisdom and patience.
May we turn out exactly
as you wish.