Radical Discipleship

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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, I have strong feelings in my heart against those who have hurt me. Teach me your ways. Heal me of my anger and show me the path to lasting peace in you. 


Encountering Christ:


  1. Love Your Enemies: Jesus challenged his disciples (as he challenges many of us) to love our enemies. In some areas around the globe, the traditional understanding of “enemy” is a real threat to life—the Taliban, for example. For many of us, though, our enemy is not as clear. Given our Lord’s command, it is helpful to take a prayerful inventory of our enemies. Where is there discord? In our family? With a coworker? Are our strong feelings real or imagined? Jesus did not make a distinction. If there is anyone in our life with whom we are unreconciled, we are called as Christians to love them and pray for them. Simple but not at all easy. How do we do it? 
  2. Radical Discipleship: “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?” Jesus already knows whether we love our enemies or not, yet he asks us. With each question, he is in essence asking, “Are you willing to be my disciple?” To be a Christian means to be radically loving in a world where people hate whom they choose to hate and love whom they choose to love. Is there an upside to trying to love this way? According to Thomas á Kempis in The Imitation of Christ, “The patient man goes through a great and salutary purgatory when he grieves more over the malice of one who harms him than for his own injury; when he prays readily for his enemies and forgives offenses from his heart; when he does not hesitate to ask pardon of others; when he is more easily moved to pity than to anger; when he does frequent violence to himself and tries to bring the body into complete subjection to the spirit” (emphasis added).
  3. Seeking Perfection: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2013) defines perfection and holiness as synonymous: “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.’” It was the Jewish understanding that neighbors included only one’s fellow countrymen. Jesus was telling them that every person, enemy or not, is our neighbor. How can we love those who hurt us and wish us harm? We cannot on our own strength. But, as the Catechism states, perfection/holiness is possible if we “use the strength dealt out to [us] by Christ’s gift.” What is Christ’s gift? It is Christ himself. He is the gift given through his Passion, death and Resurrection. We can love those whom we consider enemies by loving in, with, and through Jesus. This is done by participating often in the sacraments (Mass and Reconciliation), spending time in prayer and in Scripture, and adoring Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. 


Conversing with Christ: Lord, these words are so difficult to embrace. Everything human in me wants to push back. Yet if I do, I push you away. You tell me the way to your peace is through loving and praying for my enemies. I need you. I cannot do this on my own. Strengthen me to love radically, as you do, Jesus.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will resolve during Lent to spend at least one hour a week in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, asking Jesus to heal my heart of hurt so I can love my enemies. 


For Further Reflection: Meditate on Psalm 119, today’s Responsorial Psalm.


Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic who seeks to make Jesus more loved through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, and motherhood, and as a writer, speaker, and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry located in San Antonio, Texas. 

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