my miscellany

Epiphany 7, 2022 — 20 Feb 22

Epiphany 7, 2022

Bourgeois, Leon Pierre Urbain. Joseph recognized by his brothers, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55355 [retrieved February 26, 2022]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bourgeois_Joseph_recognized_by_his_brothers.jpg.

RCL Year C, Epiphany 7
Genesis 45:3-11 and 15, Psalm 37:1-12 and 41-42, I Corinthians 15:35-38 and 42-50, Saint Luke 6:27-38

Today’s Gospel continues Saint Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Plain which is called the Sermon on the Mount in its more familiar version in Saint Matthew.

For short, we could very well call this passage the “Love your enemies” passage, for in it Jesus commands us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who abuse us, to offer our other cheek to those who strike one cheek, and to give our shirt to those who have already taken our coat.

Loving our enemies is, at the very least, counter intuitive. It also runs against some precepts in the Old Testament and in the documents of Qumran where hatred of evil persons is assumed to be acceptable. But Jesus overturns these teachings by extending the love your neighbor commandment to include the enemy and the persecutor. Love your enemies, love your persecutor, and love those who do you harm.

Why we should love our enemies is not something that Jesus explains. He does not say that we should love them because God loves them. And, he does not say that we should love them because God created them. He says that we earn a kind of credit that we would not have if we love only those who love us.

An interesting explanation for loving those who harm us; however, we can find in today’s Old Testament Lesson. Joseph reveals himself to his brothers who have come to Egypt, where he is second only to Pharoah, to buy grain in a famine. You remember that these are the same brothers who sold him into slavery and told his father that a wild animal devoured him. Clearly, they did him harm, but Joseph says that it was not they but God, finally, that caused the harm. And God caused the harm for a purpose, a good purpose. Joseph says, “God sent me before you to preserve life.”[1] He effectively tells them that he is there to sell them grain in a famine, because God providentially put him there to sell them the grain and to preserve them and their descendants. In other words, we are not to take justice into our own hands because it would interfere with something God is putting into place. “Vengeance is mine,” the Lord says in Deuteronomy.[2] The problem of evil, harm, and wickedness is something that God will address.

And I hope that it is clear to us all that God addresses evil when Jesus commands us to love our enemies. Loving them is the way God permits them to repent, the way every day we breathe is God’s way of permitting us to repent the wrongs we have done. The end of the story of evil people may not be ours to write. The way forward for us is to do good at every single opportunity. We have the freedom and the agency to do good over and over again. As Jesus says, “Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”[3]

[1] Genesis 45:5.

[2] Deuteronomy 32:35.

[3] Saint Luke 6:35.

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