Half-Day Retreat – March 7, 2020
Fr. Marcus Milless Homily
Gospel Reading (Matthew 5:43-48):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
So we could continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus is showing that, when He came, He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. And so these commands still remain true, in that He’s calling us to something even greater, and we see this throughout the different commandments. What was yesterday? You shall not kill your brother, but I say whoever calls his brother a name is guilty of murder – something along these lines, right? Or … You shall not commit adultery. Well, those who look at a woman with lust are guilty of adultery. And then we continue today. You have heard it said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” but I say, “Love your enemy.” And so, in all of these things, the command of the Lord remains, and, as someone once said, these are not suggestions; these are commandments. And there’s only One who can demand love, Pope Benedict says. Who is the One who can demand love? Jesus … and He can command it because of what? He gave His life for us. One can demand love if they first have given it.
Now, this isn’t abuse we’re talking about; this isn’t manipulation. We have to remember what love is. It is willing the other’s good for the other’s sake. So Jesus died to give us new life and freedom, and Yahweh led the people out of slavery, and so we are saying here are ten things to keep yourself out of slavery, so follow them so you can remain free.
Now, as health care workers and professionals and sisters – as a priest – how are we called to love our enemies? Well, I can give you a little picture. Someone has been in a severe accident. They weren’t at fault and they are ticked off about it. Now, how do you think that person is going to be to deal with? Do you think it’s going to be easy to deal with that person or difficult? Difficult – I’ve seen it. That’s the person sometimes that is pulling the hair of the nurses, spitting on them. These are often situations I can light into as well. “Okay, Father, we’ve tried everything else. Why don’t you give it a shot?” But it is so important to remember that that person, regardless of how they treat me … I’m called to love them as Jesus Christ, no matter what.
There is a nursing professor … she asked her nursing students: “If there was someone who came in and was guilty of murder and you were called to take care of them, would you do it or would you ask for another patient?” And most of the nurses, what do you think they’d say? They said, “No, I’m not going to take care of that person. They don’t deserve it.” And the professor would have to remind her, “You took the Hypocratic Oath. You are to protect and save life, no matter what.” I forget how it goes, but you’re to defend all life. Each person has dignity because they exist and not simply what they do, or their skills or capacities, or what they have done in the past. Now, why is this so important? What makes this so important and crucial? This is what leads to change in the world. This is what leads to true healing. For most people who are in that situation, there’s a reason. This woman was in the accident, and there was a reason. She didn’t will that, she didn’t want that, she was upset by that, and it takes time to want to forgive, to let go, to change their mind, to change their heart.
And so, for us, that’s the call to love, and we may not see that change even in the hospital. It may only happen a year from then, two years, three years, five, six, seven, eight, twenty, thirty … think about how long it takes us to change. And so Jesus is calling us up the Mount. He is calling us to the life of perfection, but in order for us to live that life of perfection, we would have to receive His light and His grace, and love our enemies too and forgive those from our past or present, or even our co-workers who don’t see eye to eye with us or don’t have the same beliefs. I’m having to learn this. Yes, I want to bring the truth. Well, how long have they believed this? How much do I want to walk with them? We are called to love in the truth.
And so, my brothers and sisters, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.