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
Today we hear the call by Jesus to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This call requires moving past the comfort of our loved ones and into enemy territory. To break down the walls of our defenses we must first recognize we too have been loved. We have been loved by a completely innocent man who offered himself as a sacrifice to ransom the world.
Through this most perfect act Jesus broke down the divisive walls that divide ‘them’ from ‘us.’ Henri Nouwen knew about this love as he described our call to hospitality as “creating a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy.” In this free space there is no attempt to bind another into changing but only making the space where change is possible.
It starts by creating the time to listen to another’s story and having the generosity to allow another’s truth to infiltrate our space. Perhaps we may even find that we come to spend time with the stranger, lose our fear of the unknown, and allow friendship to blossom?
—Matthew Lieser, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.
Father in heaven, deepen the life of Jesus within my heart. Send me as a witness of gospel hope into a world of fragile peace and broken promises. Touch my heart with your love so I in turn may love all those I meet this week. Amen!
—The Jesuit Prayer Team