Monday of Week 2 of Lent – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 6:36-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

This is the last sentence in Luke’s version of Jesus’ teaching on the need to love our enemies. We saw the Matthaean version last Saturday. There the passage ends with:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It is clear that in showing compassion for all, even those who wish us evil, we are to aim at imitating our heavenly Father.

God’s compassion is all-embracing. His love reaches out to all without any discrimination between saint and sinner. Like the rain and sun which fall equally on all, so God’s compassion and mercy are extended to all. We, too, are being called to follow the example of our God and of Jesus his Son. We remember the words of Jesus as he was being nailed to the cross:

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)

Here is the compassion of God being expressed in an extreme situation. These same words will be repeated by Stephen when he is being stoned to death.

In today’s Gospel, we are told to follow that compassion by not sitting in judgement on others. That in no way means that we are to be blind to the genuine faults of others. But we are not in a position to take the higher moral ground so that we can sit in judgement on the supposed wrongdoer.

If we are honest, we know we judge others a lot – often with very little evidence and even less compassion. Our media, too, are full of judgment. Our conversations, our gossip is full of judgment. We lack compassion for the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters.

At the same time, we do very little to help them correct their ways; in fact, they seldom hear the criticisms we make. It is most often done behind their backs. If they unexpectedly appear, we quickly change the subject. We seem to take pleasure in the backbiting. We might even be disappointed if they reformed!

…do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

In the Eucharist we will pray,

Forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others.

A dangerous prayer to make, yet it trips so easily off our tongues, the same tongues that can be so critical and judgemental.

The Gospel calls for great generosity in our relationship with others. Not just material generosity, but generosity in love, in understanding, in tolerance and acceptance, in compassion and forgiveness. The more generous we are with others the more we will receive in return. And so we pray:

Lord, teach me to be generous,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and to seek no reward
save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

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