“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, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
“Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” This is tough!
How can we learn to imitate the Lord, who, from the Cross, prayed for his persecutors?
In the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises, the retreatant prays over the horror of sin. Look what Satan’s pride wrought. Consider all the suffering and injustice in the world because of sin. But finally, the retreatant is called to reflect on the horror of his or her own sins, sins for which the Lord gave his life on the Cross. Overwhelming shame and sorrow often follows this kind of meditation.
More overwhelming than the horror of our sinfulness that nailed Jesus to the Cross is the grace of knowing that we are still loved and forgiven by our dear Lord, who gave his life that we might live. This grace brings joy and freedom. When we see the sins of our enemies, we can see the same sins in ourselves, and because we live in the freedom of redemption, we can freely love and forgive our enemies.
—Fr. Ted Munz, S.J., Treasurer, Chicago-Detroit & Wisconsin Province Jesuits
Lord, we need your help if we are to forgive those who have neglected, betrayed, or caused profound disappointment in us. While it can seem impossible to pray for those who have hurt us, we choose to take small steps in this direction. Even though we may prefer to resist your invitation to pray for our enemies, we will move forward guided by your mercy for all.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team