Feast of Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, CP
We all have certain days that stand out in our memory-joys, tragedies, turning points in our lives. I vividly remember a day soon after I graduated law school. I was a young, new lawyer. The truth is I had no idea how to navigate the legal profession. I looked to people I trusted for guidance and advice.
I was attending a seminar just a few weeks after passing the Bar Exam. I don’t remember the particular topic for the day. But, a very well-respected lawyer took the stage and started to talk about the fine art of litigation. I remember nothing about the speech with the exception of one sentence.
He pulled us all in with a bit of a hushed tone as if to indicate we were about to hear the most treasured secret to a successful legal career-the very essence of how to be a good, winning lawyer. "Revenge," he said, "is a dish best served cold." In that moment, I thought to myself that I may very well have chosen the wrong profession.
You might ask (as I did), what does revenge have to do with being a lawyer-an advocate for justice, a champion of right? Of course, our legal system is adversarial. But to characterize the practice of law with this fierce a description shook me to the core.
I imagine that the speaker at this conference never read today’s Gospel-or perhaps wanted to forget it! Our Lord often spoke in parables. There are in fact many passages in the Bible where the language can be analyzed and picked apart. But today’s message leaves little room for interpretation; "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
How strange and foreign a concept. We have heard that we should love our neighbor-and frankly, for some of us, that might be difficult enough. But to love and pray for those who hate us is the very essence of Christianity. I think when this reading first really made an impression on me was in high school. At the time, I remember thinking that as Christians God is calling us to be in some ways passive-to turn the other cheek.
But when I read it now, I find it very empowering. Let’s face it, as Americans and Christians, there are a lot of people who hate us. It would be easy to let that dictate our own feelings. Our Father’s direction to us, then, is really quite freeing. We can and should give our love even to those who may not return it. Our Heavenly Father "makes his sun rise on the bad and the good." Are we wiser than our God that we should wish only darkness on our enemies?
Sometimes I think I congratulate myself far too much for doing things that I should be doing anyway. Think about some of the most evil figures-dictators and kings-in the history of the world. Didn’t even these men and women have friends, spouses, children whom they cared for and loved? As Jesus says, "if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that?" Christ called us to be more than ordinary.
And as for the revenge that my colleague spoke of? I think I will leave that dish off the menu.
Marlo Serritella is on staff at the Holy Cross Province Development Office in Chicago.