Love Your Enemies

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Monday of the Third Week of Lent

Luke 4:24-30
Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away. 
Opening Prayer: Jesus, you ask me to love my enemies and pray for people who persecute me (cf. Matthew 5:44). This is not an easy commandment. Help me to truly love and pray for anyone in my life that has caused me harm.
Encountering Christ: 

  1. Fickle Crowds: Just before this in the Gospel passage, Jesus had proclaimed himself the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, the “anointed bearer of glad tidings” (Isaiah 61:1-3). They “all spoke highly of him” (Luke 4:22). So why then, just minutes later, did they seek to murder him by throwing him off of a cliff? This seems to foreshadow Holy Week when the crowds in Jerusalem greeted him with praise, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9), but then only days later called out, “Let him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:23).
  2. Lack of Faith: The people were angry because Jesus condemned the lack of faith that he found in his hometown. He commented that Gentiles–the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian–were the recipients of God’s blessings and healings, not the Hebrew widows or lepers. This is what filled the crowd that day with fury; they were insulted and scandalized. However, one might wonder if they were also ashamed of their own lack of faith.
  3. Christ Loves Our Enemies: Jesus repeatedly calls for us to love our enemies: “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). The people of Nazareth could not imagine God blessing and healing their enemies over themselves. The thought of it drove them to attack Jesus and try to kill him. We can ask ourselves if there is anyone in our life that we consider an enemy. Can we imagine Jesus loving and caring for that person? How does it feel to imagine the person being loved by Christ? When we pray for our enemies steadily over time, our hearts will soften because we become more and more like Christ. 

Conversing with Christ: Loving our enemies is difficult. It stirs up many different emotions: anger, resentment, fear, and pride. Lord, grant me the desire to want my enemies to be loved by you. Grant me the grace to love the people that upset or annoy me. Grant me the courage and love to pray for anyone who has hurt me or sinned against me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray for one person whom I find difficult to love.
For Further Reflection: Read this article from Our Sunday Visitor News: “Love Your Enemies: Seriously? Impossible!” 
Written by Carey Boyzuck.

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