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The Heart of the World
Saturday of the First Week of Lent
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: My Lord, let your Spirit widen my heart through your words and with your wisdom. Help me to become more like you and teach me to love my neighbor as you love me.
- Love My Enemies?: Jesus’s invitation to love one’s enemies is so well known that it has become proverbial. Nevertheless, consider how shocking this idea is! An enemy in the proper sense is someone who explicitly wants our ill. To experience such aggression is truly dark. And there seem to be only two options for reacting to it. You either respond aggressively in kind, or you swallow the injustice and assume the role of a victim. In both cases, the darkness of animosity is likely to swallow you. Animosity is a bad thing; it is a black hole that threatens to suck us in.
- Jesus Proposes a Different Option: To react to animosity with love means neither aggression nor victimization. Love does not swallow injustice but dips it in light, thus vanquishing the toxic black hole. How is such a thing possible? Who can illuminate a black hole? Only someone who is the source of light itself. Herein lies Jesus’s glorious victory. For when the enemy par excellence seized him, the source of goodness and the heart of the world, and tried to swallow him in death, death could not quench his light. On the contrary, his divine light filled the abyss of death and woke all those who had been swallowed by it. Jesus’s heart vanquished death as it resumed beating; his light erased the black hole; his love dissolved the relentless power of the enemy.
- How Can You Truly Love Your Enemy?: Only in Christ. For when Jesus’s resurrected and glorified heart started to beat again on the third day, it became the pulse that animates a new creation; one in which we participate through grace beginning on the day of our Baptism. Jesus’s heart is the heart of the redeemed world and, therefore, should become our heart. When Jesus’s light started to illuminate the night, it immediately started spreading among the disciples whom he had bound to his heart as members of his body. When Jesus’s love defeated and redeemed those who had killed him–his enemies–he also called on his friends and empowered them through the gift of the Holy Spirit to participate in this love. Jesus’s heart pumps love into his friends. All of this means we can love our enemies, in a truly redeeming way, if we do so in Christ, if we allow him to love in us, if his heart becomes our heart.
Conversing with Christ: My Lord Jesus Christ, you look at me and see me. Sometimes, with grief, you see an enemy in me, someone who is capable of sinning and thus of offending you. However, you always react to my animosity in the same way: you love me and keep loving me. Your love has vanquished my sin and you have redeemed me from its grip. And you offer me this gift time and again, as often as I fall back into the traps of evil. Today, I thank you for your love and for your mercy. And I raise my gaze to the horizon where I might see people that move against me, my enemies. Lord, I have experienced how your love has saved me from the darkness. Allow me, through your love, to love my enemies.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine where I need your help in order to love my enemies. I want to love like you, love with you, love in you.
For Further Reflection: Catechism of the Catholic Church 1825: Christ died out of love for us, while we were still “enemies.” The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself. The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: “charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
written by Fr. Gabriel von Wendt, LC