“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.
Jesus talks a lot about compassion, love, and doing good. It would be easy to take him for a big ol’ softy or just a “nice guy” gushing on about how we ought to be nice to people. Jesus was all about love and compassion, and the Gospels show that he was also tender, kind and merciful. But in no way was he just a “nice guy,” he said and did things that ultimately got him killed. Nice guys don’t’ get themselves killed, now do they?
Today he urges the disciples to love their enemies. This is a very disturbing thing to fathom. Why would you do something so crazy as to love and pray for those who actively oppose and are hostile to you? Jesus tells us that rain falls and the sun shines whether we merit it or not.
Jesus doesn’t want us to be nice, he wants us to love with the heart of his Father, who loves whether we merit it or not. This is how he challenges, no, commands us to do something that seems foolish and definitely makes us uncomfortable. Some nice guy, right?
Grant me, O Lord, to see everything now with new eyes,
to discern and test the spirits
that help me read the signs of the times,
to relish the things that are yours, and to communicate them to others.
Give me the clarity of understanding that you gave Ignatius.
—Pedro Arrupe, SJ