Jesus did not originate the Great Commandment of love. It existed for centuries before Jesus was born. Same for the Ten Commandments. Ditto for the Beatitudes. Jesus believed in all of those wonderful moral principles. With all his heart! However, he was not the author of any of them.
The only moral principle unique to Jesus is the Great Commandment of Forgiveness. Jesus was the first person ever to say we should forgive all, even our enemies. Before Jesus, two thoughts prevailed. First, some still believed in the Old Testament recommendation of revenge. They believed (many, unfortunately, still do) that we should seek an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That's part of what Jesus abolished when he "fulfilled" the Old Covenant. Second, others believed at that time that the command to forgive applied to friends and neighbors, but not to enemies.
On the surface, Jesus' command to forgive all seems to create a quandary. God is JUST! So, what should prevail: justice or forgiveness? The answer is the one that often comes up in such seeming dilemmas. When it comes to justice versus forgiveness, Jesus is a both/and person.
Here is a modern parable. Terry's son, Don, was walking home when he was stabbed thirteen times. An eyewitness, Hal, said Drake, took Don's wallet and cell phone, and then, without provocation, stabbed Don three times. Don collapsed onto the sidewalk. While lying on the sidewalk, Don begged for his life. "Please, don't stab me again. Please, please, I don't want to die!! I didn't do anything to you. Don't stab..." Don didn't complete his last sentence. Drake stabbed him ten more times and watched as he bled to death.
Drake was captured, tried and convicted. The presiding judge, Anthony Turnbull, asked Drake whether he had anything to say before he handed down a sentence. Drake said, "Yeah! That guy was a punk. He deserved to die." Judge Turnbull asked, "Did you know him?" Drake said, "No."
Terry screamed. She would later say, "I was devastated. He didn't even know my son, and, yet, he brutally executed him. What kind of animal would do that?"
Drake's callousness filled Terry's heart with hatred. For fourteen years, she was consumed with hate.
Drake was strapped into an electric chair almost fifteen years to the day after he had murdered Don. Terry was among the people who was invited to witness the execution. She accepted the invitation.
When Don was strapped into the chair, he was asked whether he had any final words. Drake looked at Terry and cried, "Please forgive me. Oh my God, I need your forgiveness. I have changed my life. I don't want to go home to my God without your forgiveness.
Terry looked into Drake's eyes and with tears in her eyes and in her voice she said, "Drake, I forgive you." Everyone in the room was shocked. A reporter later asked Terry, "Why after fourteen years of hatred did you forgive Drake? Every time you were asked before, you said you hated him and hoped he would burn in hell." Terry said, "I went to Mass this morning. Father Bill preached on the only moral principle unique to Jesus. Father sad that Jesus says we must forgive all, including our enemies. He talked about Jesus forgiving the sadists who nailed him to the cross. So, when Drake said he didn't want to go to his God without my forgiveness, I started thinking that I don't want to go to my God without having given that forgiveness."
My sisters and brothers, do we believe what Jesus preaches? Do we live it? When we go before our God, may we be able to say, "It was incredibly hard, but I forgave all, even those who had caused me excruciating pain. I learned down below that justice is great, but forgiveness is greater."