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. Matthew 5:43
This last weekend, I celebrated a home Mass for our Community of Passionist Partners in San Antonio, Texas. As all were going to celebrate Father’s Day the following day, there was a reflection on how God, being a good Father, will always offer us an opportunity to start over again. While this teaching was very well accepted in our personal lives, it was difficult to apply it to our current social situation. We are bombarded by examples of how unjust and hateful our enemies are and how difficult it is to love them. Some were saying that it is easier to forgive them than to love them. Some were feeling that in loving them, we were affirming their unjust ways.
One of the reasons why our faith is such a challenging one is because it calls us to live in ways that go counter to our feelings and our sense of justice. As long as we continue to look at Christian Love as painless and as justifiable, we will feel good about our efforts to love as Jesus loved. But the more we delve into how Jesus loved us, then the more difficult it becomes to love the way Jesus loves. We fail to understand fully the insight that Paul the Apostle had when he wrote in Romans 5:8: God proves his love for us that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. This insight gives us great personal consolation. God’s love and Jesus’ love is unconditional.
There are no human words that will persuade us to love our enemies that way Jesus loved his enemies and gave up his life for them. All we are left with right now is the invitation to love as Jesus loved us, not in theory but in practice. We need to be able to name our enemies and make the decision to love them.
It is only with God’s help that we can do this!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.