“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,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5: 43-48)
When people talk about love today, usually they’re focused on romantic love, “falling in love”, or loving yourself. Not much talk about loving others or loving your enemies today.
“Love your enemies”, Jesus says in today’s gospel. Have a love that imitates God’s love, our heavenly Father “who makes his sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”
Is that love beyond us?
We’ve been told from earliest years that there are some people you can’t trust; they’ll take advantage of you; they’ll harm you. You have enemies in this world. Be careful.
Certainly Jesus doesn’t condemn reasonable caution. He had enemies too and he was careful what he said and how he dealt with them. Evil exists. Rather, Jesus warns against a pessimism that leads us to condemn someone or some groups absolutely. We see no possible goodness or possible change in them, only intractable evil.
We don’t see as God sees when we think like that. The sun of God’s goodness shines on this world; the rain of his mercy softens its hardest places. His love changes people for the good.
We can’t just reason our way to a love of enemies, we must pray to grow in this love. Jesus not only taught us, but showed us by his own example how to love our enemies. Look at him in his Passion, says St. Aelred:
Teach us, Lord, a love like yours,
that never gives up or draw limits,
or settles for those in its small circle.
Help us to love like the sun and the rain
that reach everywhere.