Vol. 6, No. 23
Daughters of Mary Commentary
14 February 2017
It’s St. Valentine’s Day and we are talking about Love! Loving our ENEMIES. That doesn’t
conjure up the same warm fuzzies that we usually associate with Valentine’s Day. I do not like thinking about my enemies much less “loving” them. He does not say “tolerate” your enemies. He is
unmistakable in his command that we LOVE them.
Just who are these enemies? To some it might be the one who murdered their loved one. It
might be an ex-spouse or a friend who betrayed you in an unimaginable way. It might be someone of a different political persuasion than you. It could be the abortionist or the atheist that mocks your faith. It might even be a family member who holds a grudge. It might be a demanding and ungrateful boss, or a co-worker that just doesn’t seem to like you for some unknown reason. Sometimes it might even be ourselves. God calls us to love them all. It won’t be a warm, fuzzy, valentine kind of love. It will be a love that is only possible through a miracle.
Fr. Ronald Rolheiser in his book Sacred Fire asserts that, “Gratitude is the true reason for Love, and when we try to root out love in anything else (shared ideology, ethnicity, gender, pity, cause, religion, or anger), it will invariably be more self-serving than life-giving.” God loves in a life-giving way. He spoke us into being out of the love of our parents for each other. Love is of God and God is Love. But our enemies? That almost seems impossible. He says not only love them but bless them and pray for them. And I’m not talking about praying Lord please bring to them what they have coming to them, either!
Thomas Christianson in his article What It Really Means to Love Your Enemies says, “only
when we treat our adversaries as humans-no matter how flawed- can we hope to prevail in our cause:the cause of ultimate Justice; the belief that God WILL eventually set all wrongs right.” He also adds, “that there is a way to pray both for justice and for the hearts of those committing injustices. Loving your enemy doesn’t mean you have to add them to your Christmas list or make them your best friend. It doesn’t excuse their actions. It means you forgive them with the knowledge that God is both merciful and just.” Only through true forgiveness and prayer can we conquer injustice, not demand retribution but repay injury with blessing and hate with Love. Love might make us blind to another’s faults but Hatred makes us blind to their virtues.” And indifference or ignoring them is the first cousin to Hate.
Sacred Scripture is full of references to this very concept. 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of the fact that love does not seek retaliation but that love seeks the enemy's good. 1 Peter 3:9 says “Do not pay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Proverbs 24:7 “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely, on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.”
Quoting Fr. Rolheiser, “Transform jealousy, anger, bitterness and hatred rather than give them
back in kind. It is our natural instinct to repay in kind. But at the very heart of the Gospel, Jesus invites us to go against that natural instinct.” He also says,” the litmus test, more broadly understood, is not one single moral issue but rather a whole way of living that radiates more charity than selfishness, more joy than bitterness, more peace than factionalism, more respect than negative judgment, more empathy than anger.” St. Augustine said “You don't Love in your enemies what they are, but what you would have them become by your prayers.” Pray for God’s intervention in their lives. Fr. Rolheiser says to ask God “to heal the hurts in their lives that are some of the motivators of their evil actions.” C.S. Lewis is credited with the statement “I do not pray because it changes God, I pray because it changes me.”
Prayer is the forerunner of Mercy. St. Stephen, while being stoned prayed “Lord lay not this sin to their charge.” He prayed in solidarity with Christ who we all know prayed from the cross Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
Dr. Ralph F. Wilson in his article Jesus Walks sums it up best when he says, “You see, Jesus is
out to create an army of disciples that looks at enemies as He and His Father look at them. As people to love and care for. People to provide rain for, people to die for. Jesus is out to change you and me. And obeying Jesus’ command in these verses, along with the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, will accomplish just that.” The cost of this kind of mercy might be insults and slander, some blows to the cheek, some surrendered cloaks. We may have to go a lot of 2nd miles. It was standard procedure for Roman soldiers to force another to carry his heavy weapons one mile. Jesus says go two. To master this is the very essence of Christianity. Quoting Father Rolheiser, “When we have been wronged, when we have suffered an injustice, when someone or something has treated us unfairly, a thousand physical and psychological mechanisms inside of us begin to clam up, shut down, freeze over, self-protect, and scream in protest, anger and rage. Forgiveness is not something we can simply will to make happen.”
The heart, as Pascal once said, has its reasons! The great poet Alexander Pope’s famous line “to err is human, to forgive, divine” is a reminder that we should seek to imitate the divine.
Let us forgive. Let us Pray. Let us Love.
Christianson, T. (2015). “What It Actually Means to Love Your Enemies,” RELEVANT Magazine.
Rolheiser, R., Rev. (2014). Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity.
Wilson, R.F., Dr. JesusWalk #18 Love Your Enemies Luke 6: 27-36.
Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version: Second Catholic Edition.