Jesus invites us to a revolution of kindness
A reflection for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
by Gerard Gallagher
I grew up in the north of Ireland during the “Troubles”. It was a period of intense violence, crimes, and killings that became part of daily life. It became normal to hear about shootings, people being burned out of their homes, people being targeted because of their religious affiliations, rioting on the streets. Most people tried to live normal lives. However, some families experienced deep tragedy and loss. You see, this violence was the legacy of a “struggle” for a united Ireland on one side and a claim on the other side that many in Ulster were British. Two very opposite viewpoints. Almost irreconcilable. However, peace was achieved through the bravery of some remarkable people, advocating for peace, justice, and civil and human rights that begins with understanding each other’s story.
We now live in peace in Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Stories of violence and civil unrest have now moved to other countries around the world. From the Middle East to North Africa, the stories of violence and hatred continue. The toxic of hatred among people can rise up in unexpected quarters.
We learned in Ireland that matching violence with violence will not lead to peace. Our political leaders and civil and religious leaders needed to find a new language and a new way of living together. This path was not an easy one.
One of the most hostile places today is not a country or a location. It is closer than you think. Our use and participation of social media has become a place where judgment and opinion occur sometimes without censure or responsibility. It has become a place of judgment and condemnation. Almost a space where few take responsibility for hurting others by their personal approach to social media. Just imagine if we used our social media in a new way. Imagine if it were a place where we try to be the disciples that Jesus wanted. Imagine rather than weighing in with the crowd of public opinion that we try to be people of Gospel offering kindness, compassion, and a new way of dialoguing to create a civil environment.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is challenging the status quo by inviting a new revolution of “treating others as you would like them to treat you”. This Gospel is extremely challenging on an individual level. It really pushes us towards the uncomfortable thought of “loving our enemy”. Are all our relationships – in my family, at work, and in my friendships – based on respect? Am I able to “love” those who don’t think, believe, or do the things that I do? Each of us needs to reflect on how we relate to the people around us.
One of the greatest advocate for peace in my generation was John Hume, a politician who pursued the cause of peace throughout his life. He often quoted Martin Luther King, saying, “An eye for an eye just leaves everyone blind.” This Sunday as we reflect on Jesus’ words, take a moment to see if you are a person who can walk that hard path of loving your enemies. This week try to measure out the Gospel of love and try to make a difference. As Jesus said, “Give, and there will be gifts for you.”
The readings for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, are
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-25
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Gerard Gallagher works as pastoral coordinator in the Archdiocese of Dublin. He is author of a number of books including
Are We Losing the Young Church? (2005) and, most recently,
Return to Me with All Your Heart (2020). He has directed pilgrimages to World Youth Day for over 20 years! He works mainly with young adults.