While preaching about a passage from St. Luke’s account the Sermon on the Mount, Fr. Matthew Howell passes on three pieces of advice that he received from his mother as a child to frame the three points of the homily:
1. “You always represent our family” (Be kind and merciful because you are a Christian, and because you call God your Father);
2. “Send mail to receive mail” (Love proactively, not re-actively);
3. “Nothing stops you from being nice to those who are mean to you” (Love your enemies).
Along the way, he explains why Jesus also says to go two miles instead of one when compelled and reads the following text of a prayer of St. John of Damascus when talking about praying for one’s enemies:
“Grant mercy, O Lord, to them that hate me, or oppose me, or wrong me, or slander me, so that none of them may suffer any evil in any way–whether in the present age or in the age to come–on account of me, an unclean sinner. Cleanse them instead by thy mercy and protect them, O Good One, by thy grace.” (found in Orthodox Christian Prayers, page 156, published by St. Tikhon Monastery Press in 2021)
2 Corinthians 6:16-18; 7:1
Brethren, you are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.
The Lord said, “As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For 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? For even sinners do the same. And 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, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”