“But to you who listen I say…” With that introduction in today’s gospel reading, Luke recites the middle and most important section of Jesus’s great ‘Sermon on the Plain.’ In this profound text, Christ tells “you who listen” how to behave, beginning with the radical command: “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.” The behavior Jesus commands is revolutionary…a complete departure from innate human drives and customs. But the instruction is given only “to you who listen.”
Jesus knows this is a hard command to follow. Because it is so hard, we typically listen with our head and not our heart. We fail to fully absorb it. Jesus knew it would be truly heard and followed only by those who listen with the ears of their heart.
Are we among those who listen with our heart to Jesus’s command to love our enemies? Who is our enemy? Fortunately, there are few of us today who are victims of people who hate and curse and mistreat us. There are many people with whom we vigorously disagree on very important matters. Does that make them our enemy? Perhaps it is we who hate and curse those with whom we disagree. Perhaps we are their enemy and not they ours. If we truly listen to Jesus’s command, then we must love and do good and bless and pray for those whom we have made into enemies. That would change us. That is the revolution Jesus ignites in the world.
Lent is a time for listening. I am thankful for the call that I heard in Lent 2018 to apply for admission to the Virginia Seminary Master’s Degree Program, and thankful that I listened. I regret the times I have not listened to such calls with my heart. I pray that I may be among those who truly listen to Jesus’s profoundly transformative commandment to love my enemies. To change the world, we must begin with changing ourselves. Amen.
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: