n our Readings today, the Scripture
tells us to be holy as our heavenly
Father is holy. The same Scripture
offers us what a Christian should do
to achieve that holiness and perfec-
tion. As the Book of Leviticus in our first
reading admonished the people of Israel:
“You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God
am holy” (Lev.19:2). The same holiness is
demanded from us as Christians today.
St. Paul, in the second reading, makes
us understand that we temples of God
saying: “Do you know that you are God’s
temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
If any one destroys God’s temple, God
will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy,
and that temple you are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17).
St. Paul tells us that should there be an
attempt to destroy God’s temple that we
are, God will destroy the person. It simply
means that even individuals do not have
the right to destroy themselves or allow
themselves to be destroyed by others, by
way of allowing evil or bad influence from
others that take hold of them.
Little wonder in today’s Gospel, Jesus
advises us to always overcome evil with
good actions, for he said: “Do not resist
one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you
on the right cheek, turn to him the other
also” (Matt. 5:39).
That which Jesus wants to teach us with
these words, is the clear distinction which
we must make between justice and ven-
detta (revenge). When king Henry VIII of
England was having a quarrel with king
Francis I of France, he requested Thomas
More to carry a sharp note to the French
king. “But your Majesty”, protested Thom-
as More, “You know his temper. Why, he
might even have me beheaded”. “Never
fear”, replied Henry VIII, “If he does, I will
have the heads of every Frenchman in
London”. “That is most kind of you”, said
Thomas More, “But I do not think any of
their heads will fit my shoulders”. Revenge
is to be condemned.
It is allowed to seek justice; it is our duty
to practice justice. We are forbidden, on
the other hand, from carrying out revenge
or fermenting revenge in any way in as
much as it is an expression of hatred and
Jesus continues to tell us: “You have
heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your
neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say
to you, love your enemies and pray for
those who persecute you, so that you may
be sons of your Father who is in Heaven;
for he makes his sun rise on the evil and
on the good, and sends rain on the just
and the unjust’” (Matt. 5:43-45). We must
love our enemies and pray for those who
persecute us. St. Stephen, the proto martyr
died praying for his enemies. Before he
died “he knelt down and cried out in a
loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin
against them’” (Acts 7:60). One of the fruit
of this prayer is the conversion of Saul, the
persecutor to Paul, the preacher.
A certain young man named Alessandro
aged 19 sought in vain to seduce Maria
Gortti aged only 12 and threatened her
with death if she revealed his designs. On
5 July 1902, Alessandro entered the Goret-
ti home with a dagger. Maria repulsed his
advances and told him: “No, God does
not wish it. It is a sin. You would go to hell
for it.” The youth then stabbed the girl
repeatedly. She died the next day in the
hospital at Nettuno, Italy after forgiving
her murderer. He later repented of his
crime and attributed his conversion to the
intercession of Maria Goretti.
We must love our enemies. And who are
our enemies. Our enemies are those we
we do not like. Our enemies are those who
make us angry intentionally. Our enemies
are those who offend us. G.K. Chesterton
says that we are commanded to love our
enemies and we are also commanded to
love our neighbour. It means that they are
the same people.
What can we do to these our enemies?
We can give a smile, a helping hand, a
Jesus never asked us to love our enemies
in the same way we love our nearest and
dearest. The very word is different; to love
our enemies in the same way as we love
our nearest and dearest would neither be
possible nor right. This is a different kind
Wherein does the main difference lie?
In the case of our nearest and dearest we
cannot help loving them. It is something
which is born of the emotions of the heart.
But in the case of our enemies, love is not
something which we cannot help; it is
something which we have to will ourselves
into doing. It is in fact a victory over that
which comes instinctively to the natural
This obligation to love our enemies is
only possible for a Chrstian. Only the
grace of Jesus Christ can enable a person
to have this unconquerable benevolence
and this invincible goodwill in one’s rela-
tionship with other people. It is only when
Christ lives in our hearts that bitterness
will die and this love spring to life. It is
often said that this world will be perfect if
only people live according to the principles
of the Sermon on the Mount; but the plain
fact is that no one can even begin to live
according to these principles without any
help of Jesus Christ. We need Christ to
obey Christ’s command.
This obligation is so defining of our
identity as Christians that we cannot say
we are true Christians if we fail at this.
Thus, as Christians we cannot say so and is
my enemy or I hate so and so. This none-
theless, does not stop people from making
us their enemy or hating us. That, sadly,
is not in our power. What we must do is,
pray for them. Yes, through prayer we will
find the strength to love them.
Jesus tells us: “For if you love those who
love you, what reward have you? Do not
even tax collectors do the same? And if
you salute only your brethren, what more
are you doing than others? Do not even
the Gentiles do the same?” (Matt.5:46-47).
When people are good to you and you
reciprocate with good, you are human.
When people do you evil and you recipro-
cate with evil, you are an animal because it
is in the nature of animals to attack when
they feel you want to attack them. When
people do you good and you reciprocate
with evil, you are a devil but when people
do you evil and you reciprocate with good,
you are a Christian.
Jesus concludes today’s Gospel saying:
“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your
Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt.5:48).
The call to be perfect is addressed to us
within the context in which we are asked
to be poor in spirit, to suffer affliction,
to be meek, to hunger and thirst for
righteousness, to be merciful, to be pure
in heart, to be peacemakers, to suffer
persecution for righteousness’ sake. Jesus’
sermon on the Mount is the charter for
The responsorial Psalm says: “The Lord
is compassionate and gracious” (Psalm
103:8). We must be compassionate as our
As we begin the holy season of Lent this
Wednesday God willing, may God give
us the strength to respond to hate with
love, injustice with justice, the need of our
brothers and sisters with sharing, war with
peace through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wishing you a happy Sunday, a fruitful
week ahead and a blessed Lenten season
ahead. Rev. Fr. Christian Ehimen Usifoh.