Possible to Love Your Enemies
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA
02/18/2007 — 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time “C”
(7am Mass — PCPA Hanceville, AL)
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you...”
That’s not an easy thing to do!
“Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
That’s not our typical first natural reaction — to bless those who curse us!
That’s not an easy thing to do!
Everything Jesus said in the Gospel especially today’s, they’re not easy to do! Even though they’re not easy, they’re not impossible to do! Especially with the Lord, everything is possible! It is possible to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us! It is possible to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who mistreat us!
We have numerous examples in the lives of the Saints! We have examples even in our modern day. We have the late John Paul II. We all remember the famous photo of his powerful witness of today’s passage. He visited the 23-year old Turk, Mehmet Ali Agca, in prison . He is the one who tried to take his life. And also my patron just in the last century is another example. Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro forgave and prayed for those who’d been ordered to shoot him to death.
Not easy, but not impossible!
Who makes it possible is Our Lord! Who makes it possible is Our Heavenly Father! Who makes it possible is the Holy Spirit and His holy gifts especially the gift of fortitude! God not only makes it possible, He shows us the way! He gives us His own example! At Calvary, Jesus was crucified. The Pharisees and others mocked Him: If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross! They blasphemed and cursed Him! What did Jesus do? He prayed for them: Father, forgive them. Not only did He prayed for them, but He gave an excuse to the Father on their behalf: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!
What did St. Paul write to the Romans? He said: “Christ died out of love for us, while we were still enemies (5:10).” We were the enemy of Christ! We were the ones who betrayed Him! We were the ones who joined the crowds and yelled out: “CRUCIFY HIM... CRUCIFY HIM”! We were the ones who put Him to death! We do all that by our sins! Yet, Jesus accepted death out of love for us! Since we were created in the image and likeness of God, we must bear that image and likeness to the world!
The new commandment God gives us is not a “suggestion.” It’s not a pious recommendation! But it’s a real command! It’s a real precept! He expects of us to do! Again, it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible!
By the choice of words He used, Jesus challenges us further when He calls us to love our enemies. In Greek, there are several words which mean love. There is “eros” which the world knows so well and the only definition the world understands. This is the passion love... the love of spousal union... the love of husband and wife. And there is “philia” which is the love of friendship. This is the love between one friend and another.
But Jesus did not use any of those words. He used “agape”! This is the same word when He gave His disciples the New Commandment: Love one another as I have loved you! Agape is another word for love in its highest form!
It means that no matter what a person does to us, we will never allow ourselves to desire anything but his highest good; and we will deliberately go out of our way and be kind to that person. Even if he insults you or treats you like a dirt or hurts you so bad that you’ve never felt before in your life, the Lord expects you to seek nothing but that person’s highest good.
The love we bear to our dear ones is something we cannot help. We speak of falling in love. It is something which happens to us. But this love towards our enemies is not only something of the heart. It is something of the will. It is something which by God’s grace we may will ourselves to do. (cf. Barclay’s commentaries)
Again, it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible!
Sometimes when we speak about enemies, we only think of those who are trying to kill us. Sometimes we only think of those who don’t want us to live and to exist! By God’s grace, we don’t meet this kind every day! But “enemies” may include those who treat you unjustly. “Enemies” may be those who live under the same roof who day-in and day-out give you difficulties in life or those who betrayed you or lied to you all the time. We are to love them as Jesus expects of us! We are to will for their highest good! We are to be kind to that person!
When Jesus permits us to be in this kind of situation, we try to live out what He said in the Gospel, but it seems nothing is improving and nothing is changing! And the worst is that it’s been years that’s been going on! This is the hard part! This is the part that I kept saying “not easy”! But we have to stick to it by continuing to love our enemies!
There is nothing wrong to confront the person yourself: Look, what you’re doing hurts me very much; the words that you said stabbed me so painfully. The lies that you spread ruined my reputation. I ask you not to do that anymore.
Hopefully, the person will see it the way you see it. Hopefully, the person becomes aware of his own sinfulness. But if the person doesn’t see it the way you do, and you’ve tried numerous times to help that person to see it, then you have to realize something. Jesus and Mary are not ignorant of this! God knows about this! He permits this for a reason. He has a purpose for I don’t know what for a moment. But He always brings good out of evil!
When the Lord puts you in this kind of situation and you respond with the grace He offers you to love your enemies, you’ll be amazed and you’ll be saying: truly His commands are not impossible! I’m doing it! I’m really praying for him who mistreats me! I’m blessing those who curse me! I’m doing good to those who hate me! I’m really living the Gospel! But don’t get big-headed too quickly though because we’re able to do all that because of Him Who helps us. It is because of God’s grace. John Paul II, Bl. Miguel Pro, and all the Saints were not “superman”! But they’re able to do what they did on earth because God’s grace enabled them to do that!
And you’ll end up praying: Lord, thank you for the opportunity to live your Gospel. Thank you for the opportunity to be like you. And you’ll end up thanking the Lord, for that person intensified and deepened your prayer life! You’ll be thanking the Lord for that person, for using that person to help you grow in Holiness. And you’ll experience the interior joy like you’ve never felt before — joy not of the world but of the Lord!
Yes, it’s not easy to live the Gospel authentically, but it’s not impossible! The Lord’s grace is what makes it possible!