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February 1996

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. (Matt. 5: 44-45)

'Love your enemies'. These are powerful words! They really turn our way of thinking upside down and make us change course in our lives!

This is because, let's face it, all of us have enemies of one kind or another:

My enemy is living there in the flat next door, she is the unpleasant and meddlesome lady I try to avoid whenever she comes to get in the lift with me.

My enemy is that relative of mine who upset my father thirty years ago and to whom I have not spoken since.

Your enemy is there sitting at the desk behind you in school and you have never looked him in the face since he got you into trouble with the teacher.

She's the girl who was your girlfriend until she ditched you to go out with someone else.

He is the one who cheated you in business.

In politics our enemies are the people who hold different views from us and so we declare them to be enemies. Some people see the State as an enemy and carry out acts of violence against those who represent it. There are people who see priests and the Church as enemies.

So, all of these, and an endless number of others whom we call enemies, must be loved.

Loved? Yes, they must be loved. And don't imagine that we can do this simply by changing our feelings of dislike into kinder ones.

There is more to do than that... Listen to what Jesus says:

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.

Do you see? Jesus wants our love to show itself in prayer and actions. In another passage he also says, 'Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.' (Luke 6: 27-29). He explains the reason for this command of his, pointing out as an example of the love of God, his Father, and inviting us to make our behaviour like this. This is the point. We are not alone in the world. We have a Father and we must become similar to him. Furthermore, he has the right to demand this of us because when we were still his enemies, when we were still living in darkness, he loved us first (cf. 1 John 4:19), sending us his Son who died in such a terrible way for each of us.

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.

Young Jerry, a small black boy from Washington, had already learned to live these words. He was put in a special class at school because of his high I.Q. All the other children were white. But his intelligence was not enough to make his classmates understand that he was their equal. They didn't like him because he was black, and when Christmas came and they all exchanged presents, they left him out. He was upset, as you can imagine. But when he got home he thought about Jesus: 'Love your enemies', and with his mother's permission he went out and bought gifts which he gave with love to all his 'white brothers and sisters'.

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.

Elizabeth, a little girl from Florence, was walking up the steps to go into her local church when a group of youngsters started teasing her. She felt really annoyed and wanted to shout back at them. But instead she smiled at them and in church she prayed for them. When she came out they were still there and they asked her why she hadn't got angry with them. She explained that it was because she was a Christian and so she had to love always. She said it with conviction. Her testimony was rewarded. The following Sunday she saw all those young people in church, sitting attentively in the front row.

This is how seriously children take God's word. This is why they are 'great' in his eyes.

Perhaps we too ought to take steps to remedy certain situations in our own lives, all the more so, since we will be judged by the way we judge others. We are the ones who give God the yardstick with which he will measure us. Don't we pray often "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us"? So, let's love our enemies! Only by doing this can we heal disunity, break down barriers and build up the community.

Is it difficult? Is it painful? Does the mere thought of it prevent us from sleeping? Take heart. It is not as hard as it sounds: a little effort on our part, then God will do the other 99 percent and ... in our hearts there will be boundless joy.

Chiara Lubich

 

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