“Take away from love the fullness of self-surrender, the completeness of personal commitment, and what remains will be a total denial and negation of it.” - Pope Saint John Paul II (1920 –2005) was Pope from 1978 to 2005.)
Gospel Text: (MT 5:43-48)
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.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect."
But love my enemies?? Love the terrorist, the rapist, the killer, the abuser? Love the corporate plunderer, the arrogant politician, the lazy, the entitled, the insufferable, and the list goes on and on? It’s good in theory, but are we humans really built to let go of our fear, anger and hatred of the perceived “other” and simply stand with them, shoulder to shoulder, in love and humility before God?
Jesus tells us that the call to love-not mushy, sentimental, romantic love-but a love that is forged out of the guts of our own resistance-is a call that reverses the very course of our human history, the history taking shape in space and time and the history unfolding daily within our own hearts.
I confess that there are times when I adore, like a false idol, my “righteous” anger at certain people and their actions or values. I feel entitled to it. I even enjoy it. Maybe it gives me the sense that I am actually doing something productive or it affirms my “superior” nature. But in the end, it is all a distraction, I think, from what I’m really supposed to be doing.
As Christians we are called, tested even, to love each other generously and graciously, to be an image mirrored back of how our merciful Creator loves us (as difficult as that must be at times). We know that Jesus felt intense anger while on earth, but that was at hypocrisy and injustice. That was the real “other” he was trying to isolate and cast out.
So if there has to be an enemy, let it be injustice. And if there really is an “other,” maybe it’s the stranger within us, the flawed heart just waiting to be healed by love for God, one’s self, and others.