As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
On the eve of their graduation, the president of a university told his senior class what makes them grown ups. He said that as they graduate, they will continue to accomplish milestone after milestone: getting a job, buying a house, finding a life partner, starting a family, all the factors that we use to define what phase of life we are in. But, he said, none of these things make them grown ups. A person is not grown, they are not fully mature, until they are no longer the center of their own universe. When their gaze has turned outward instead of inward, when their chief concern is for others and not looking out for themselves, this is what makes a person a grown up. It has nothing to do with what age you are, or what you have accomplished, or how much it looks like you have it all together, but true maturity relies entirely on whether or not you are thinking about yourself or thinking about others.
If we have that focus, the focus of living for others and not only ourselves, then the attitudes we are called to adopt in today’s scriptures are only natural. They outline for us what the thought-life of the Christian should be. Are you having trouble being kind to someone? Think how they must feel, being on the receiving end of your anger. Having difficulty keeping an attitude of humility? Think about the people all around you and their gifts and what they bring to the table. Feeling impatient? Think about where the other person is coming from and how different their motivations are from yours. This outward focus is how we clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, meekness, and patience, as St. Paul calls for.
Jesus alludes to the same attitudes in the Gospel, in a passage often misinterpreted as simply being a nice person or worse, a doormat. When he calls us to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us, he is not saying that anyone should allow themselves to be abused. He is talking about the ultimate good: the salvation of their souls. To enable an abuser by allowing yourself to be their victim does not move them toward salvation. Also, cutting yourself off from them and cursing them the rest of their lives does not move them (or you) closer to salvation either. As Christians who trust ourselves to God, when someone hurts us, we do not simply hit back. We run to God with the hurt so that he can heal us and bring us understanding. When we are no longer operating out of a place of hurt, we stop trying to defend and protect ourselves, striking out at anyone who threatens that self-defense and protection. We become outward focused and can ask the questions, “What needs to be healed in this person? Why did they hurt me?” Whether this question leads to true reconciliation between you, or if that question helps you to pray for them from afar, we remain true to the Gospel when we focus on their woundedness instead of nursing our own.
Now if this meditation is becoming discouraging to you as you realize you must stop thinking about yourself and let go of all the things that made you feel important, think on the shortest sentence in today’s scriptures: “And be thankful.” Remember that the most important person to be focusing on is not yourself, not the people around you, but God. When we think on God, when we think of who he his, how big he is, how great he is, and how great is everything that he has made, it is only natural to be thankful. Who cannot be grateful when they see beauty in creation? Who cannot be thankful when they think of all the ways that God has provided for them? Who cannot be thankful when they think of how God gives his all for us every single day? It is because of God’s giving to us that we can give to others. It is because of God’s love for us that we are capable of loving others. It is God’s constant focus on us for our benefit that makes it possible for us to focus on others and look out for their own good. Let us take our cue from the psalmist today and spend some time simply praising the Lord. He is the one who first loved us. Let us pray that he helps us to love others.