Our readings today have a very strong message, a message that is hard to hear. But the message is clear: we must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. No way around it: it applies to us.
It might seem impossible, but here is a very important distinction which makes it a little more doable. When Jesus speaks of “love of enemy,” he is not talking of feelings of affection or sympathy or tenderness toward the one who does evil to us. It is difficult to change the feelings of the heart toward one who harms us. Jesus means NOT to seek or desire to do the person evil. We don’t have to FEEL love; we are talking about deciding NOT to hate, not to return evil for evil. The feelings that come when someone hurts us are not the problem. The sin is when we hurt them back.
The Christian approach is to try to fix the problem, if possible. We can also try to do good to the other. At a bare minimum, we can pray for the other. We are acting as a Christian when we forgive, rather than taking vengeance.
This is not easy. For some it is more difficult than for others. But you can see in our world the results when people harbor hatred, anger, hurts, and want to get even. Things escalate, getting worse and worse. We will not be perfect in this, but we need to be growing.
An example I would use is Vladimir Putin. What is my attitude toward him, given all the evil he has perpetrated? Do I wish him ill? Do I want him dead? Or am I entrusting him to God’s love and praying that he may change his ways? Prayer DOES work. Remember Saul of Tarsus? I am sure the early Christians thought he was at least as bad as we regard Putin. I think God chose him and he was converted because of St. Stephen, the first martyr, who prayed for those who were stoning him, including Saul.
I invite us to reflect on how we are doing at “loving our enemies.” To work at growing in our ability to do this would be a good Lenten challenge.
We are not God. We are not perfect. We want others to love us, despite the things we do. We need to grow in our ability to do the same. God bless.
Church sign of the week: When the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box.
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