We find in this selection from the Sermon on the Mount one of the hardest teachings of Jesus: to love our enemies. Yet when we do this we cleanse our hearts of hate and fill them with God’s grace, so that we will be prepared to follow Christ in this life and be with Him in the next.
“Love your enemies” is one of the toughest teachings of Jesus. Yet these words continue to show us a path forward in the face of hatred, violence and persecution…revealing that there is something that can heal our hearts and renew our lives: God’s love.
It’s the classic test of the depth of our response to the Lord’s command…to be able to love those hostile people who make our lives painful and unbearable. Can we follow the example of Christ and love our enemies?
A couple of major themes surface in our readings this week:
1st Reading – Be holy, and love your neighbor as yourself
Psalm – “The Lord is kind and merciful.”
2nd Reading – You are the temple of God, which is holy
Gospel – Love your neighbor…and your enemy!
In the first reading and Psalm we see the Lord’s command to love one another. This might catch some people by surprise; after all, the Old Testament is filled with examples where the people of God are anything but loving to those they encounter! Point: love of neighbor is a clear commandment of God.
The Gospel of Matthew sets the bar higher as Jesus builds on this command and calls us to conversion. We are not only called to love our neighbors and family, but we are also called to love our enemies and persecutors! Like last week, Jesus takes the commandments of the Old Testament and moves far beyond them. We are called to love with our whole heart…loving one another the way God loves us.
The second reading goes in a different direction. We hear from St. Paul that our bodies are temples of the living God, and as such we encounter the Spirit of God in the person of everyone we meet.
A consideration for today: put the love of God into practice! We are cherished, treasured, forgiven and esteemed by the Lord – who loves us even on our worst days. Following this example we can act accordingly…loving those around us with the love of Jesus Christ.
The First Letter of John cuts through any warm and fuzzy notions of love with a decisive evaluation: we reveal our love for God through our love for one another. May this practical test guide and direct our actions, powered by the love of Christ.
This command of Jesus will test us in the depth of our hearts! Yet when we love our enemies we grow as disciples and become more and more like the Lord, who graces us with God’s love so we can put this teaching into daily practice.
The command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” is perhaps one of the most challenging lines in the Bible. Yet when we strive to carry this out we begin to conform our lives to Jesus, allowing his grace in us to make it possible.
Yep, you heard that right. Love your enemies. Love one another when it’s hard and unpleasant and we don’t feel like it. Love the people who push all our buttons and make us see red. Love the people who have hurt us. How? By asking for the Love of Jesus Christ to dwell in our hearts.