Sunday, February 23, 2014

Love Your Enemies

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you  (Matthew 5:44)

This is such a difficult gospel.  As Christians, we understand that we are called to love our neighbor, but love our enemies?  That is a tough commandment to follow at times, but let me offer you some hope from some friends to the south who are living out today’s gospel.  Last Thursday night, our church was overflowing with people who came to pray for peace in Venezuela which has been dealing with unsettling violence over the last few weeks.  The Mass was celebrated by one of my Venezuelan brother priests, and he did a beautiful job of directing the people’s attention towards the gospel and maintained a beautiful atmosphere of peace throughout the two hours that we spent in prayer.  Yes, most if not all of those present have no love lost for the government of their homeland who is suppressing freedoms, but you could not feel any hatred during that Mass, only love for God and their homeland.  In regards to today’s gospel, the morning of the Mass I was speaking to a Venezuelan friend who was telling me that we must pray for those who were persecuting them and oppressing them.  I was not celebrating the Mass, but prayers were offered for those in power so that they might always seek justice and the common good.  The petition of my friend and the prayers offered at Mass were in harmony with the message of Jesus in today’s gospel: “pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).” 

As Christians, we must always seek the higher ground.  The word hate is tossed around and used so often in our society.  We cannot have any room in our hearts for hate.  What does hate accomplish?  It definitely does not bring us closer to God, and it does not solve any difference that we may have with those that may be classified as “our enemies.”  Instead of hate, sow seeds of love.  If those who persecute us reject that love, we can rest easy knowing that we are doing God’s will.  A shining example of sowing love in the face of hatred and oppression was seen in a moving video that went viral this week of a Venezuelan young woman pleading with riot police to stand down and join them because they all share the same blood of their homeland.  She pleaded with them because she did not want any more violence and tried to appeal to their hearts because she knew that deep inside they did not want any more violence either because police were being killed as well.  This courageous young woman stared down and pleaded with those stoic riot police and even caught two of the women police officers crying under their helmets and face shields.  She could have easily been arrested right there and probably beaten as we’ve seen done in so many countries around the world, but she stood her ground and asked for unity and harmony for her people.  Not a word of hate come out of her mouth, but the love and concern for those who were her “enemies” is what made her witness so popular on the internet and an example of living out today’s gospel. 

Hate accomplishes nothing.  Jesus is calling us to perfection as Christians.  He is calling us to holiness of life so that we may win over those who are consumed and corrupted by hate.  A holy army of love is far more powerful than any army with weapons.  We must live out this gospel of loving our enemies so that we can become an army of saints.  Pope Francis said this morning that “to be a saint is not a luxury; it is necessary for the salvation of the world.”  We want to save our world and our homelands?  We must become saints!  Bury hatred, love your enemies, and win them over with love.  This is what Christ did, and all he did was win for us a glorious eternal homeland in heaven.