Friday of the First Week of Lent
(Ezekiel 18:21-28; Matthew 5:20-26)
Tolerance is surely a “sign of the time.” Western society calls its members to live without hostility toward people of different races, beliefs, and national origins. As hopeful as tolerance is in some places, it does not meet Jesus’ standard for his followers as expressed in today’s gospel passage.
The context is the Sermon on the Mount. In it Jesus calls for an inner conversion that goes far beyond a cessation of firing arms. He wants his disciples to make every effort to love their enemies. In this passage, he tells them to reconcile with brothers or sisters with whom there has been enmity. But it must be remembered that a brother for Jesus is more than a sibling or even a community member. It is every human person since all humanity has God as Creator.
John Allen tells the story of Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, an Italian religious, who was being targeted by radical Muslims for running a hospital in Somalia. One day the radicals came to kill her. The sister’s Muslim driver threw his body before her and was hit by the assassins’ first bullets. But Sr. Leonella was not protected for long and took several shots as well. The blood of the – Christian and Muslim -- mingled together. As she was dying, Sr. Leonella’s last word was “Perdono,” Italian for “I forgive.” Both Sr. Leonella and her driver showed the kind of love for others that Jesus preaches to us on the mount.