A pastor once preached a Sunday sermon titled "Forgive Your Enemies." He asked how many of the congregation have forgiven their enemies. About half held up their hands. He then repeated his question. Now about 90% held up their hands. He then repeated his question once more. All responded, except one elderly lady. The pastor asked: "Mrs. Lee, are you not willing to forgive your enemies?" She replied: "I don't have any." The pastor was baffled and said: "Mrs. Lee that is very unusual. How old are you?" "Ninety-three," she replied. The pastor then asked: "Mrs. Lee, please come down in front and tell the congregation how a person cannot have an enemy in the world?" The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle and said, "I outlived every one of them!"
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us an interesting teaching. He tells us to love our enemies, because as Christians, love should be our priority. At the heart of Jesus’ teaching are two important traits – compassion and forgiveness. More than ever, we need to exercise both compassion and forgiveness, wherever we are, especially in our society, parish community, and families. It seems easier said than done. But the reality is that compassion and forgiveness must be the foundation of all our relationships. In our relationships, we must be realistic that we live in an imperfect society, community and family. We must recognise that there are people who will try to take advantage of us, try to cheat us and wrong us, just as we also do the same to others. Ultimately, it is important to recognise that none of us is perfect.
Jesus does not demand perfection from us. Rather, in today's Gospel Jesus asks us to “be compassionate as your Heavenly Father is compassionate.” Here we find the basis of our need to show compassion and forgiveness. We must forgive and show compassion towards others because we have been forgiven and shown compassion by God. If God can forgive us in spite of our sinfulness, then we must be able to forgive others who have sin against us. It is only when we are able to reflect on our own sinfulness, limitations and weaknesses, that we begin to understand, forgive and finally come to accept others. Of course, it is not easy. But with the grace of God, all things are possible. Thus, let us pray for the grace to be more compassionate and more forgiving as we pray: "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."