“Love Your Enemies” | iPray with the Gospel (7th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust…You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
All the moral evil in the world can be justified as a response to a previous offence. How many times a child, scolded for hitting his sister, will reply: “You are right, mum. It’s my fault. I’m sorry”? How many times instead you hear: “She started it!”? That’s how fights start: ‘He pushed me, I pushed him’ (a bit stronger); then ‘he called me… and I called him… (a bigger name here)’ Does it sound familiar? Every fight is always started by the opponent. But what matters here is not who starts, but who stops it. A good Christian does it. Because he or she breaks the escalation cycle. We stop hatred with love.
Many people get this teaching of Our Lord wrong. They think that Jesus asked us to ‘Forgive our enemies’. But He didn’t say that. He asked us to ‘Love our enemies,’ which is very different. During the Spanish Civil War, thousands of priests and religious people were killed out of hatred. A few months after the end of the War, St Josemaría took a taxi in Madrid. He tried to converse with the taxi driver, but the man wasn’t very friendly. Suddenly the driver asked him: ‘Were you in Madrid during the War?’ Hearing the affirmative answer from St Josemaría, the driver snapped at him: ‘Pity that they didn’t find you and shoot you dead.’ St Josemaría remained silent, praying for that poor man. At the end of the trip (and despite the priest’s financial straits) St Josemaría paid him a very generous tip saying: ‘Take this and spend it on a good gift for your kids.’ The saint didn’t pay the driver back ‘in his own coin’, but in the Christian coin, minted with Christ’s Face. That currency is love. That’s how we “drown evil with an abundance of good”, as St Josemaría taught, not just forgiving, but loving those who ill-treated him. Mary, you are also the Mother of those who wrong me in any way; you love them… help me to love them also, as you do.
Rev. George Boronat M.D. S.T.D is a Catholic priest from the Prelature of Opus Dei, working in the Archdiocese of Southwark in London. He is the Chaplain of The Cedars Independent School in Croydon, and also works as Chaplain of Kelston Club & Study Centre (Balham) and Oakwood Independent School (Purley). He has developed his pastoral ministry mainly with young people and is the author of iPray with the Gospel: Resources to Help Young People Pray (www.ipraywiththegospel.org).