Loving Our Enemies

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Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: “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 and sisters only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, thank you for this moment I have to reflect on your written word. I am grateful for this “time out” from my busy day. Please help me to absorb the lessons you have for me and act accordingly. 
Encountering Christ: 

  1. The Challenge: Few passages of Scripture are as unpalatable as today’s Gospel. Over two thousand years after our Lord spoke these words, they can be just as hard to hear. Generally, we don’t want to love people who do not love us nor do not want to pray for them. We prefer to greet and spend time with those whose company we enjoy. And as for people who persecute us, isn’t it enough to try to stay out of their way? Jesus was speaking to a people who knew all too well what it was to have enemies. The Jews of his time lived under military occupation. Furthermore, Jesus certainly knew of the persecution that was to come against the early Christians. Still, he insisted that his followers set aside hatred and radiate his love to all, even their bitter enemies. What a challenge! 
  2. Perfect Abundance: Jesus wants to set us free from evil, hatred, and jealousy. He knows that when we fume and stew over injustices, real or perceived, we are turning away from the abundant life he offers us. He wants to give us the joy and freedom that comes from forgiving others. He promises deep peace when we pray for a person who has wronged us. Jesus asks of us something that is possible only with his grace. Perhaps today the closest we can get to perfect is to ask Jesus to give us the will to forgive, or the words to pray for someone who has wronged us. In Jeremiah 29:11, we are promised, “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When Jesus breaks the bonds of hatred, revenge, and bitterness in our hearts, we are truly set free to live as children of God.
  3. It’s A Battle: The world tells us to stand up for our needs and seek out what gives us pleasure. The Word tells us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all else will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). As a soldier remains constantly alert and on guard, we must be vigilant and constantly beg the Holy Spirit for the grace to love our enemies, to pray for those who do us wrong. Our Father, in his wisdom, knows that this is our only path to peace. 

Conversing with Christ: Lord, fill my heart with trust in your promises. When the enemy of my soul whispers and I feel hatred towards others, grant me the grace to turn to you for strength. Teach me to see others through your eyes and fill my heart with your love. Thank you for enlightening me and guiding me to seek out the abundant life you promise. 
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray an intentional rosary, naming any individual I need to forgive and asking for the grace to do so. 
For Further Reflection: Be Healed: A Guide to Encountering the Powerful Love of Jesus in Your Life, by Bob Schuchts.
Cathy Stamper lives in Maryland and has five adult children with her husband of thirty years. They owned and operated a family business for twenty-nine years. She is a member of Regnum Christi and has been active in the Leadership Training Program and Walking With Purpose.

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