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LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

Christians must make peace even when they feel that they are victims of those who have struck and hurt them unjustly. This was how the Lord himself acted.

The Gospel for Sunday, February 18, 2007
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke: 6:27-38

How should we respond to the invitation to conversion that Jesus addresses to us in this time of Lent?
How can there be a serious change in our life? First of all, we must open our hearts to the penetrating call that comes to us from the Liturgy. The time of preparation for Easter is a providential gift from the Lord and a precious opportunity to draw closer to him, turning inward to listen to his promptings deep within.

There are Christians who think they can dispense with this unceasing spiritual effort, because they do not see the urgency of standing before the truth of the Gospel. Lest their way of life be upset, they seek to take words like "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" (Lk 6:27) and render them empty and innocuous. For these people, it is extremely difficult to accept such words and to translate them into consistent patterns of behaviour. They are in fact words which, if taken seriously, demand a radical conversion. On the other hand, when we are offended or hurt, we are tempted to succumb to the psychological impulses of self-pity and revenge, ignoring Jesus' call to love our enemy. Yet the daily experiences of human life show very clearly how much forgiveness and reconciliation are indispensable if there is to be genuine renewal, both personal and social. This applies not only to interpersonal relationships, but also to relationships between communities and nations.

The many tragic conflicts which grievously wound humanity, some of them stirred by mistaken religious motives, have sown violence and hatred between peoples and even at times between groups and factions within the same nation. With a distressing sense of powerlessness, we sometimes see a revival of hostilities which we had thought were finally settled, and it seems that some peoples are caught in an unstoppable spiral of violence, which continues to claim victim after victim, without any real prospect of resolution. And hopes for peace, heard all around the world, come to nothing: for the commitment required to move towards the longed-for reconciliation fails to take hold.

Faced with this disturbing scenario, Christians cannot remain indifferent. That is why, during the Jubilee Year... I gave voice to the Church's plea to God for forgiveness for the sins of her children. We well know that the sins of Christians have marred the unblemished face of the Church, but trusting in the merciful love of God, who keeps no account of evil when there is repentance, we can confidently set forth on our journey once more. God's love is clearly revealed where sinful and ungrateful man is readmitted to full communion with the divinity. Seen in this light, "purification of memory" is above all a renewed proclamation of the mercy of God, a confession which the Church at every level is called to make again and again with fresh conviction.

The only path to peace is forgiveness. Forgiveness given and received enables a new kind of relationship among people, breaking the spiral of hatred and revenge and shattering the chains of evil which bind the hearts of those in conflict with one another. For nations in search of reconciliation and for those who hope for peaceful co-existence between individuals and peoples, there is no other way than this: forgiveness given and received. How full of salutary lessons are the words of the Lord: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust" (Mt 5:44-45)! To love those who have offended us is to disarm them and to turn even a battlefield into an arena of mutual support and cooperation.

This is a challenge not only to individuals but also to communities, peoples and humanity as a whole. In a special way it concerns families. It is not easy to be converted to forgiveness and reconciliation. To choose reconciliation can seem problematic enough when we ourselves are at fault. But if the fault is someone else's, reconciliation may even seem a senseless humiliation. An inner conversion is required if this step is to be taken; the courage to be humbly obedient to Jesus' command is needed. His word leaves no doubt: not only those who provoke hostility but also those who are its victim must seek reconciliation (cf. Mt 5:23-24). Christians must make peace even when they feel that they are victims of those who have struck and hurt them unjustly. This was how the Lord himself acted. He expects his disciple to follow him, and in this way cooperate in redeeming his brothers and sisters.

In our own time, forgiveness appears more and more essential if there is to be genuine social renewal and a consolidation of peace in the world. In proclaiming forgiveness and love of enemies, the Church is aware of adding to the spiritual heritage of all humanity a new mode of human relationships; an arduous mode, to be sure, but one that is also rich in hope. In this, the Church knows she can rely on the help of the Lord, who never abandons those who turn to him in times of difficulty.
February 12, 2007

Excerpted from Pope John Paul II's Message for Lent, 2001.

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READER COMMENTS
02.28.07   troubledgoodangel says:
The message that "Christians must make peace even if they feel that they are victims of those who have struck and hurt them unjustly," is the message of the cross that "we must take up" (Mt 16:24). It is an inspiring programme for every Christian, instituted by Jesus Himself! I do not dispute that. Who should? This is how Our Lord Himself acted! But let us not forget that the Lord was God, whereas we are only human. Let us never forget about this! For I hear many well-off, well-positioned in the Church's hierarchy, Christians, just quoting these words as a testimony against those who were hurt by injustice within the Church, those who now, like scrambling eggs on afrying pan, are desperately trying to make peace, trying to regain faith - trying to forgive while everything in their whole being cries out Why?! All I am saying is this: not all people's crosses are of the same size and of the same weight! The Church should do more not to hurt the innocent, given that their wounds become for them an addictional cross! On the other hand, it is also true that God has said, "My Grace is enough for you." And this should be the real hope of people who have been hurt!

05.21.04   Siena says:
Thanks for sharing such a sweet story so close to your heart. Congratulations on your beautiful generations of love! We are both fighting the good fight, Jonathan. Praise God. Keep fighting for love... it's how true heros are made. I met a man on the metro the other day, he's Jewish and pro-choice. We argued about the issue on the silent train for, I'd say, 10 minutes straight... and everyone was forced to hear it We left peacefully, and we're still friendly, but after that talk, I wanted to SCREAM so loud that the scales would be forced to fall from his eyes! But our God does not force, He waits. I can love him as a child of God on a journey, and still blow a fuse. Loving your enemies doesn't mean that you're quiet & nice all the time. And who knows? Maybe SOMETHING got through. God Bless you, Jonathan.

04.28.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
Siena,It was me. I was 19 and she was 16. When I returned from Basic Training (my future mother-in-law telephoned my Company commander who then [*&@#&%**@%$] me out and told me to call home, propose and finish basic!) We have been married for over 30 years. 3 children, 2 miscarriages, 3 grandchildren, and we are still improving and growing and understanding God's gift of Love to us every day.It doesn't matter, as long as we (men and women) commit to marriage and work at it to love. The initial physical attraction is ephemeral (witness the number of abortions due to the oops! contraceptive method or I-want-sex-with-you-but-not-marriage) and never will be a lasting foundation for love. It is a shortcoming of our English language that the various Greek words for 'love' in the NT have been traditionally translated or understood in a flat, two dimensional way: Agape: love, Philos: love, Caritas: love, Eros: love. No wonder we are widdershins about Romance and Love and Marriage for "loving, committed same-sex couples." O mores O temporesSiena, please do not misunderstand: what I said is not hateful of those women who prefer abortion over the gift (and WORK) of childrearing. I pity us, who disdain that rarest of gifts from God, and I must speak and act out against those who support the (doublespeak) "pro-choice" movement.I could be passive-aggressive and hold up a threatening or taunting sign at their marches in Washington, or I could speak and believe as our Mother Church teaches and continue to watch and pray: in other words, confront them, witness to them the evil that on-demand abortion is.God bless you (Catherine of) Siena.Jonathan

04.27.04   Siena says:
Last Sunday I went down to the "March for Women's Lives." It was amazing!! I just want to publicly thank God for the grace and joy he poured into my heart that day. I carried a sign that said, "Pro-choice" in bloody red font. It took most people a while to "get it"... even pro-lifers. This is because the "Pro-choice" message has been cleansed and sanitized in the political justice of 'women's rights'. The political pro-choicer is so far removed from the bloody clinic, that when someone sees a bloody representation of the pro-choice message, it boggles the mind. That is how embedded we are in the cultural lie that death is a choice.We are living in a present day Holocaust. Which is why I went down last Sunday to personally face the confused Nazis of our time, and to teach them the truth and to love them despite their confusion. For I too was confused like they are only 7 years ago. We are all children of God... all of us. The sun shines on all of us (yet interestingly, it did not shine AT ALL that day), the flowers bloom for all of us. "He's got the whole world in His Hands..." I do not doubt they will learn the truth someday. PRAISE GOD THAT HIS MERCY IS GREATER THAN ANY OF OUR SIN!! Praise God.

04.02.04   Siena says:
Jonathan,What if it were you?What if you were female and found yourself pregnant at sixteen. What if it were you?Nothing changes without love. "If you have not love you are nothing but a clanging symbol"Ignorance is not a sin. Have compassion.

04.01.04   Jonathan Kinsman says:
I cannot forgive those who do not harm me, such as physicians who work the abortion clinics. That is the crux of Luke: a relationship of victim to victimizer grounded in forgiveness and love. I am not the victim of the abortion.We must love (that is, the Christian love of 'caritas') those whose actions we abhor or dislike, while despising the sin (the action) and the mens rea (the intention to act) exhibited. I can hate abortion, but I am not able (logically or theologically) to 'forgive' those you get them or those who perform them.One of the prevalent problems with discussing abortion is the confusion many make between the concepts of Free Will (God given) and Choice (mankind driven). If we choose in accordance with Love and Life (two miraculous gifts) then we will always find ourselves in the shadow or 'imago' of God: 'holy,' that is, 'separate' from our selfish nature. If we choose for purposes of Self (the lesson of Adam and Eve with the Temptor in the Garden), then we choose Death (the negation of Love and Life). The question is twofold, but one of essence: Are we created in utero with a unique soul, and did we choose to end our lives through a medical procedure?It is impossible to answer 'yes' to both forks of this question. This is the stumbling block many Catholics have when they try to reconcile their support of the Death Penalty and their loathing of legalized abortion. The soul determines the Free Will. The convicted felon on death row exercised his Free Will, he has chosen Death. (Dante's idea of 'contrapasso' in the Commedia) but the unborn fetus (or nascent human, or named boy or named girl) does not choose at all. There is where the evil is: we murder (not kill) another (through commission or omission of the act) human soul-inhered life.Thus, I am not able to 'love' those workers in abortion clinics, those selfish women and men whoprefer convenience (O the bother of having a child!) or subterfuge (But I'm not married! or, What would my [fill in the blank] think of me!?).Pray and sing, yes.Pray and sing and watch, even better.Better yet, shame those before they sin: it is nonviolent ('loving') and witnesses your Faith, your Free Will to protect (within current legal restrictions) those who cannot protect themselves.We are all part of the Communion of Saints.

04.01.04   Siena says:
If you pray outside abortion clinics and you want them to close, love everyone that walks through that door. Love the "doctors", love the "deathscorts", love the women, love the supporters. It's possible if you say with our Lord, "Father, they know not what they do." Pray and sing. They'll listen.

02.22.04   Godspy says:
Christians must make peace even when they feel that they are victims of those who have struck and hurt them unjustly. This was how the Lord himself acted.

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