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 God in his holy place,
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his powerful deeds,
praise his surpassing greatness. (R./)
O praise him with sound of trumpet,
praise him with lute and harp.
Praise him with timbrel and dance,
praise him with strings and pipes. (R./)
O praise him with resounding cymbals,
praise him with clashing of cymbals.
Let everything that lives and that breathes
give praise to the Lord. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples:
"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."
The ideals set by Saint Paul are based on his belief that baptised believers really are "God's chosen ones." If that is our core identity, we need to live worthy of that identity. Generosity and love are not beyond our power as "holy and beloved." God has drawn us into the Christ-life, as members of his body, so that inspiration and grace can infuse us like breath or blood. Because Christ is already alive within us, we must be marked by love, kindness, patience and generosity.
This is also the spirit of today's Gospel, where Jesus asks us to "bless those who curse you," "turn the other cheek," and (most difficult of all) "love your enemy." These are the hallmarks of a Christian life. These ideals are grounded in the idea that, as we are formed in the image of God, our lifestyle should mirror God's own mercy. Jesus wants us to be merciful, as your Father is merciful. This is the high road to sharing in the life of God: "Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High."
At the heart of Jesus' teaching is the call to love our enemies and to give to those who will never be in a position to pay us back. In the ordinary run of thins, people who are in a position to be generous will expect some return of gratitude at least. Giving to others put them in debt to you. We struggle to be completely selfless in our giving.
Jesus calls for more than the ordinary idea of giving with a view to receiving. Ideally, love has no self-seeking in it, and it imitates how God loves us. God is good even to the ungrateful and the wicked. Jesus says that we can be be God-like in our loving and in our giving. He promises that if we give in this God-like way, we will be blessed abundantly. A full measure of reward will be poured into our lap. We are invited, in the words of the first reading, to let this word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with us.