Jesus died for everyone, not just for His friends
by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB
This is an excerpt from a homily given during the 25th anniversary Mass for Luke 15 House last month at St. Mary’s, Vancouver.
Photo Caption: Members and graduates of Luke 15 House stand around Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, during the house’s 25th anniversary celebrations Feb. 18. The
archbishop’s homily from the celebration highlights the importance of “loving people who don’t love us back.” (Josh Tng / The B.C. Catholic)
Luke 15 House is a point of light and hope for its residents who sincerely desire to turn their lives around with the help of God’s grace. In a culture which is often harsh and unforgiving, Luke 15 shines out as an authentic beacon of God’s love – of what can be accomplished when generous people open their hearts to their brothers in need.
We all know how easy it is to love someone who loves us; to return love offered; to love back.
My problem – our problem – is loving people who don’t love us back, who might even be against us, those who dislike us. And I’m not just referring to those who are far removed from us, like terrorists. I am talking about those I am perhaps in daily contact with. We find it hard to love those who disagree with us, who ignore us, who confront us, or who find us disagreeable and tell us so.
Most of us don’t like to talk about having “enemies,” except perhaps for those who are in distant countries and cause us no personal harm. When we hear Jesus say, “Love your enemies,” we might think, “but I don’t have any enemies! I get along with everyone” – except, of course those I don’t talk to, those about whom I gossip, those I push out of the way, those I have shoved out of my life. They aren’t really “enemies,” I say to myself.
For those closer to home – perhaps even in the home – we are more likely to say that we “don’t get along,” that we “dislike” them. As long as we don’t say we “hate” them, we think we are following the way of the Lord.
But Jesus tells us that these are precisely the people whom we must love – our “enemies,” if we dare to use the word – not just those far away.
Jesus was not all talk in his ministry. He walked the talk, his talk. Indeed, he invites his disciples not just to listen to his words and praise their wisdom, but to follow him. “Love one another. How? “As I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). That’s what he said at the Last Supper. And so, that’s our model. He’s our model. He showed us how to love our enemies.
And how did Jesus love them? He suffered on the cross not just for his immaculate Mother, Mary of Nazareth, but for the sinner Mary of Magdala; not just for the beloved disciple, John, but for the traitor apostle, Judas; not just for the women who wept as he passed on his way to Calvary, but for the men who jeered him as he hung in agony on the Cross.
His love was for the outcast lepers as well as for the socially acceptable Martha, Mary and Lazarus; for the self-righteous Pharisee in the temple as well as for the repentant tax collector, Matthew, at the customs house. His love was for Herod who sought to kill him as an infant, as well as for the shepherds who came to adore him as the newborn Saviour.
And if we look more closely at who Jesus loved, we can also see ourselves. The enemy is not just “out there.” It is right here, with me. I have seen the enemy – and the enemy is me, the enemy God has saved by his amazing grace. We have been made friends of God, first offered that friendship in baptism as a gift purchased at a price. The words of St. Paul help us answer this: “While we were still sinners/ enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son” (cf. Rom 5:10).
Before God, we are all in need of transformation, of being rescued, of being saved. That’s why we are to treat others as God in Christ has treated us.
That’s why the love of enemy is possible. Because we’re all in the same boat. At the deepest level, we are all people in need of the divine mercy. And we are invited to have the same kind of love Christ had for those whom, humanly speaking, were his “enemies”: to love as Jesus loved.