Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
“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.”
To be a Christian is no joke. A Christian has to follow the commandments of God explained to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Jesus has emphatically told his disciples. He relayed it with such seriousness. Indeed, it is very difficult to be a Christian as it demands more from us. How can we love our enemies in the first place since we don’t like them?
In our gospel reading, Jesus exhorted his disciples about the new commandment of love. They were asked to be more patient when they are insulted and undermined, to be generous in the midst of greed, and to be loving and just when people persecute you. The old law and old way of dealing with our enemy has been changed by Jesus.
The practice of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was the old law and it was practiced by many people during the time of Jesus. Most people retaliate and take revenge if someone had done them wrong, to make even with your enemies. Jesus wanted to correct this practice for this is not the way of God. In the new commandment of love, one is asked to be kind and loving. The Lord Jesus gave us a new model of relationship with the Lord and that is to love everyone, including our enemies.
The new commandment of Jesus is to love one another because He loves us. Though love may be defined theoretically or experientially, love has to be nurtured shared. As Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ said: “We should fall in love and stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
And when we have that love, then we can give love and share love. Love should not only be for one’s own family and friends but for everyone. Love is authentic when it is unconditional.
To love your enemy a difficult thing to do. We dislike those who cause our pains and sufferings and our normal response is to close our doors to these people. To protect ourselves from them. We are not comfortable to go with people whom we don’t share the same vibe nor interests. The gospel is very clear on what we shall do as followers of Jesus. The response is not revenge or retaliation but patience, generosity, and charity. Love conquers everything and we are asked to choose love and do everything with love.
Many people cannot love their enemies in their lifetime. It is very difficult to love our enemies. Can you love the mistress of your husband or the person who squandered your money in your joint business? Can you love the one who insulted, maligned, or abused you? There are many more situations we can enumerate, but this is the call of Christian love—to correct the wrong, to serve justice, and to love freely.
Let us pray, reflect and ask ourselves:
Do I love others without preset terms and conditions?
Do I still care for my friends who hurt and offended me?
Am I willing to continue loving the people who do not love me in return?
Do I believe that loving one’s enemy is our way towards God?
Almighty and Loving God, help us to understand and forgive those who have hurt and failed us, those who caused our suffering and made our lives miserable. For those people who do not like us or hate us, may we learn to forgive, to love and to share that love with others. This we ask through Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who have not experienced love; those who are not loved and who needed love very much. Friends who separated their ways because of misunderstanding, misgivings, grudge and hatred, may they open their hearts to the beautiful experience of reconciliation and love so they may learn to accept each other and become friends again. Likewise, we remember those who are in need of our loving care, especially the sick the suffering and the needy.