"My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors." Humans resemble animals in their ability to use anger to meet difficult situations with courage and aggressiveness. So anger in itself is a natural good and not an evil! However, we suffer from the results of original sin as well as our past misuse of anger. It is easy for us to be unjust in word and deed when we encounter real or fancied injustice or difficulties of any kind. That first flush of an angry feeling is not yet a sin, uncontrolled it can become a sin of injustice. Such is the morality of the natural law.
The Son of God brought us a higher a deeper way, he demands we see and act as sons and daughters of God! "… You must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect… love your enemies, pray for your persecutors."
The first martyr, Stephen met this test as did the Trappists beheaded in Algeria in our time. A preacher in the 2nd century regrets that not all Christians were meeting the command to love and forgive. He points out that those outside the faith are amazed at the beauty and power of the command to love. But he also feels shame to admit the pagans even insult our very God when they see the words have no effect in our lives, as when they observe we not only fail to love people who hate us, but even those who love us. Then they laugh us to scorn. Failures occurred then even as now.
The demands of the Lord are not easy to fulfill. A brother’s mannerism, his tone of voice can cause our jaw to set, our eyes to narrow. These are warnings, to slow down and remember that God loves that brother or sister of ours and expects us to do so as well. God has not finished his work on any of us! And the Lord has told us the standard is high. "You must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Fr. Fred Sucher, C.P. is retired and lives in the Passionist community in Chicago. For many years he taught philosophy to Passionist seminarians.