Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (Mt 5:43-45)
Certainly, some words of Jesus are tougher to hear than others. Today’s Gospel would be one of those examples. After all, who loves their enemies? Who wants to love their enemies? That seems to go against all that we are.
It seems that from the time we are very young, we are raised with an “obliterate your enemy” kind of attitude. Even the games we play when we are young target an “enemy” that must be defeated. Our war games, capture the flag, Risk, all sorts of other games, be they board games or live action games, target an “enemy”.
So do our sports. You would never see someone on the football field yelling to an opponent, “Hey, your side is down a lot of points. Here, take the ball and run it in for a touchdown.” You would never see a hockey player not check an opponent. Gosh, those kinds of things would be “un-American”.
Yet, the Lord tells us to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors. That is a tough order to fill. But, fill it, we must. For God, Himself, cares for all. God, Himself, loves all. God, Himself, provides for all.
As God showers His love down upon all people, He gives them an opportunity to see who He is and to respond to Him in love. By being perfect love, God gives His enemies an opportunity to soften their hearts, to change their ways, to return to Him.
The same can be true of us. We have enemies, we all do. That, sadly, is a part of our human condition. However, by the way we live our lives, we can either keep our enemies firm in their resolve or we can soften the hearts of our enemies by showing them the love that comes from God Himself.
What rejoicing must take place in heaven when we win over an enemy. For, if we do so, that former enemy would then know the love of God, the forgiveness of God, the mercy of God and be able to respond to God as well.
FAITH ACTION: Take a moment this day to pray for peace: peace in your heart, peace in the hearts of your enemies, and peace in the world.