Love is the greater power

17 September, 2023 24th Sunday Year A

Listen to reflection

A wandering preacher’s violent execution by a long-gone empire a couple thousand years ago is the salvation of the world? That eccentric rabbi is the king of heaven and earth? Are you joking? He said what? It is more blessed to give than to receive? He taught who will inherit the earth? Everybody knows what happens to the meek: they lose. Every time. If I strike you, and you turn the other cheek, I won. Right?

If they remind you of anything, today’s readings from Sirach and from the gospel recall the equally startling line in the Our Father: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The petition makes our forgiveness by God contingent on our forgiving others. It’s terribly sobering. It’s also deeply rooted in the hopes and aspirations of the historical people of God in their (our) covenant with the Creator.

Let us reflect on the Christian account of true power: Anger slams a door, gentleness waits patiently; arrogance thrusts itself to the front, humility withdraws to the back; strife loudly divides into pieces, peace quietly smooths out; revenge grasps and squeezes, forgiveness lets go; hatred pushes, love embraces. Which is more powerful? “Love is stronger than death,” says the author of the Song of Songs. If death is most evidently the greatest power in the world, then what is love? Love is stronger, greater, more powerful in what it effects than death.

Of course, love’s greatness of power—even over death—is not evident. If you have suffered the death of a loved one, for example, you are certainly confronted with this fact. No matter how much you love him or her, death has caused a definitive breach between you. Love seems impotent, weak, non-effective in the face of death.

Death makes an aggressive claim to be the greatest and most universal power there is. Faith, however, says death is not definitive, not absolute. Faith says love is greater, definitive, absolute, universal.

If Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, if he overcame death, then his suffering on the Cross meant something. It meant, in the first place, that love is stronger than death. Faith seems faint, yet, in reality, it is the epitome of force. Forgiveness seems weak, yet, in reality, it enacts a profound degree of strength. Love appears impotent, but, in reality, it is the greatest power there is.   

So, how does this reflection help us understand the line from the Our Father? If forgiveness is the greater social power—disarming antagonism, healing hostility, transforming enemies into partners and foes into friends—then in the prayer we are seeking to be the kind of people that belong to and live from his ultimate Kingdom—that Kingdom where love rules, where forgiveness is the condition of entry.

W Chris Hackett

© Majellan Media 2023

We encourage you to share and use this material on your own website. However, when using materials from Majellan Media, please include the following in your citation: Sourced from


Click to share