Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40 Saint John Baptist de LaSalle/Saint Stephen October 29, 2023
Sometimes I get a bit depressed with all the violence that is going on around us. Again, for the 36th time this year, another mass shooting, this time in the State of Maine. “A monster is at large in Maine,” the headline read. In addition, right now, as I speak, there are 32 ongoing wars being fought in our world, ranging from drug wars, terrorist insurgencies, ethnic conflicts, and civil wars.
The two we hear most about is the war between Ukraine and Russia and the war between Israel and Palestine. We have shown strong support for Ukraine and Israel, for we believe that their success is vital to our own national security. When the war broke out between Israel and Hamas, our president was quick to journey to Israel and speak to the Jewish people, saying: “America has your back.”
It is interesting to note that the people involved in these wars, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, all believe in the same God, and all believe that God is on their side, that God has their back. Yes, God has promised us so much. If you were to make a list from the Scriptures, of all the promises God has made to us, it would indeed be a long list. But here is a statement you will not find on the list: “God has our back.” Now don’t get me wrong, our God will defend us, and God’s promise is found in Scripture. But the promise of having someone’s back means that you already know what side the one making the promise is taking: Yours, and you already know who the enemy is: Them. Most people, even if their faith in God is rather weak, presume, because they are right, that come what may, God is on their side, that God has their back. But why, why do we always presume that we are right, and the other person is wrong? Is that always the case, have you ever later discovered that you were wrong, at least to some extent? If not, then you are an extraordinary person, or you cannot recognize your shortcomings.
Also, God does not promise to have our back, even when we cannot possibly be wrong. Why not, because we fail to recognize where God is in our life. God is not behind us, God is in front of us, urging us to love and respect the other person. “Like a Shephard God leads his flock, leading them home.” God does not enter our struggles by promising to take our side over that of another. God promises to care for us, to protect us, and to love us, whether we are right or wrong. But God has also made that promise to those who stand opposite us. What is true for us is also true for all people, and even all the nations of the world.
How offensive we are to God, to suggest that any person, any group of people, even those we would correctly judge to be wrong, people who are evil, are inhuman monsters. We should never hate other people so much that we see them as monsters, no matter what evil he or she may have done. Monsters do not come forth from God. So, to call someone a monster is to deprive them of their humanity, to deny that they too are children of God. We owe nothing to monsters, and we have every right to ride our world of monsters, and that is why people, even the worst of people, are never monsters. God gave them life. God cares for them.
We may indeed need to oppose their actions and their attitudes with all our might. But we have no right to make another monster, to deny another their rights and dignity. When we do that, we deny the very God who created him or her. God stands with the good and the wicked. However, God does not have our back. God stands before us, leading us to green pastures, leading us from darkness into light. God created all of us. God loves all of us. God cares for all of us. Yes, God loves the human race. So, no matter how challenging you may find the command, God calls you to love and care for your enemies. God calls you, to: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”