Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 9 of Season 5 for the seventh Sunday in ordinary time: February 20, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 6, verses 27-38
Jesus said to his disciples: “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Good or Evil (The Choices We Make),” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
Back in 1963, some of you maybe remember or heard about the Bronx Zoo, which had a fantastic exhibit near and around the exhibits for the gorillas and the chimpanzees. And as visitors walked through this part of the zoo, above this exquisite exhibit was a sign. And it said the most dangerous animal in the world.
And this was housed at the Bronx zoo, the most dangerous animal in the world. And as visitors walked by this exhibit and looked to find this most dangerous animal, guess what they saw? A mirror looking back at themselves. The most dangerous animal in the world is here today, now: you and I. We are the most dangerous animal in the world because we have something that can change things and it's called power. Power. We don't realize it, but the whole fate of our planet rests in our hands and with our decisions. How we think, what we do, how we resolve conflict, all depends upon a "yes" or a "no" made by you and me.
We are the most dangerous animal on this planet.
You see, we forget because we do all of the right things. We look at ourselves and consider ourselves to be religious. Some of us may consider ourselves to be holy. But in the heart of every human being, regardless of the level of their holiness and regardless of how religious they may be, how faithful they may be, is this struggle that goes on inside between good and evil. It exists in every human heart and soul. The struggle between good and evil.
Each one of us has the capacity to do incredible things. We have the capacity to be loving beyond measure, but let us not fool ourselves. We also, each one of us, has the capacity to hate. We have the capacity to be violent. We have the capacity to retaliate.
And so when we're in a situation in which we're feeling challenged, what is going to kick in and our response to that reality? Are we going to do as Jesus suggests today, love our enemies? Turn the other cheek? Pray for those who hurt you? Or is this other lower level of us going to kick in and we're going to disregard that message and do something else?
You know, Viktor Frankl, a very wise man. He had an observation that is very much on point and very key. And he said that our generation has figured out what a human being is, what man is. And in essence, he said that a human being, man, is the same person who invented the gas chamber in Auschwitz, but he is also the same person who walked upright in the line into that gas chamber with a prayer, "Hear, O Israel," on their lips.
Human beings can do both. We can be vehicles of mass destruction, or we can be vehicles of love and mercy. The choice is ours.
And we need to hear again, the word of God. We need to be refreshed and renewed again at the table of the Lord, because we struggle with this inner self, those two voices, the one that says "good," and the one that has the capacity for "evil." And we need this focus so that we can train ourselves to listen to the right voice.
I've talked over the years, but many people who consider themselves to be good Christians who listened to today's Gospel and said, "That's not for us. It's okay for God to do that stuff. But if someone's going to hurt me or somebody, I love that I am going to retaliate. I am going to put that aside and do what I think I need to do to protect myself and family."
You see, we can talk ourselves out of this very easily, very easily. And then we can justify actions that go contrary to that so easily. But Jesus doesn't mince any words. This is probably one of his most clear teachings where he gets very, very specific about very specific things.
We can certainly find ourselves apprehensive. That's being honest. We can even find ourselves being a little bit unwilling to do some of these things. We can find ourselves failing when we try to do some of those things, those are honest human responses. But we can't talk ourselves out of them. When we find ourselves not living up to par, we can ask the Lord for forgiveness and mercy and the grace to try to live as God wants us to live.
The short of it is this, as we leave this holy place and we go out into that world that is so confused and so broken sometimes, we have to remember that we go out those doors not as ourselves. We go out bearing the image of God as God's representative; as God's love. And how we act and what we say, how we resolve conflicts is not about us, but about the One who has a claim on our lives, our Creator.
And so as we look into that mirror tonight, before we go to bed, you're looking at the most dangerous animal in the world because we have power; power to do good and power to do evil.
Which one will we choose?
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.