Some things are indeed complicated, deserving of our time, energy, and perseverance. Today’s gospel from Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount is one of those things.
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.” (Mt 5:43-44)
So many times I hear people tell me about some particular thing they are going through, but too often, the account I hear in 90% about the failing, faults, and misdeeds of the other person; the other 10% is about the injustice of it all. Every word of it may be accurate. But perhaps none of it is too self-reflective. It can be complicated. Or it can be simple and to the point.
Tina Turner had it right when she sang “What’s love got to do with it.” Right in so far as if we are talking about a Hallmark Card moment we think of as “love.” A moment that is fraught with emotion, breathlessness, and a desire to hold onto this moment forever. Those moments are indeed part of the human experience and are quite wonderful. But not exactly what Jesus is talking about.
Think of the moments in your life when you are speaking with someone whose words, ideas, opinions or whatever are so aggravating, annoying, and ready to make your blood pressure rise to unacceptable levels. You want to have some quip, some sharp and biting words that would just silence the person – your external actions matching your internal turmoil. There are options. The 19th century philosopher and theologian Maurice Blondell would tell you you can choose to speak words of charity. Words that are quite and apart far from how you feel. He speculated that when you make that choice, you might be most Christian you can be – you have chosen what Christ would have you do, not what you feel or your emotions are telling you to do.
Are you thinking that is just self-control? Well, it is in a way. But to choose charity, caritas, is to have chosen the kind of love of which Jesus spoke.
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.
Now you need to pray for that person. Simple and to the point. Didn’t say easy, but it is what we are asked to do.
Bishop Robert Barron writes, simply and to the point, about this gospel passage.
Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus commands us to love our enemies.
The first reason we love our enemies is because this is the best way to test the quality of our love. Love is not primarily an emotion, but an act of the will. It is willing the good of the other as other.
A second reason to love your enemies is that they tell you about yourself. There is a very good chance that the people who most bother you are those who most reveal to you unsavory truths about yourself.
Third, perhaps the person you consider your enemy is actually pointing out to you the inadequacy of your own life. Maybe he is right and good, and it’s you who are off-center. Could it be that your enemy is in fact a kind of saint who is indirectly indicating your own weakness and lack of moral courage?
A final reason to love your enemies: you might win them back.
Simple and to the point. And you don’t need me to send you Bishop Barron’s reflections. You can have them delivered right to your inbox. Simply go to his Word on Fire website and sign up.