Tag Archives: love of enemies

Bless Those Who Curse You

“Bless those who curse you”
A reflection on Luke 6:27-36, Matthew 26:52, and Proverbs 25:21-22
Thursday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time 
Related posts: The Golden Rule, Love of Enemies, Christ on Retaliation
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36 (NABRE)

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

Matthew 26:52 (RSV)

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink
for you will heap coals of fire on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.

Proverbs 25:21-22 (RSV)

Love of Enemies

“Love of Enemies (3 panels)”
Matthew 5:43-48 in a quatrain
Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Related post: Love like the Sun
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

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. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

Love like the Sun

Fra Angelico, Detail of the Crucifixion (ca.1437-46)

First Week of Lent, Saturday

Matthew 5:43-48

“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. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus’ description of the Father’s impartial love takes its inspiration from the sun and the rain— natural phenomena devoid of passion, and blind to merits and demerits. Divine love energizes all living beings regardless of their response to their Creator. Even the “enemies” of God exist because he continually sustains them in being. 

In the light of Christ’s merciful words on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), it becomes clear that his clashes with the scribes, Pharisees, and priests were manifestations of divine love. No malediction ever issued from his lips.

Do I not hate, Lord, those who hate you?
Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?
With fierce hatred I hate them,
enemies I count as my own.

Psalm 139:21-22

Jesus, the Son of David, knew and prayed the “cursing” Psalms in the Hebrew tradition, but showed by his life the ultimate end of the psalmist’s prayer. Christ drove all curses into himself on the Cross, assumed blame for human sin, and expired with benediction on his lips. 

The second Adam reversed the finger-pointing of the first couple in the garden of Eden who blamed the serpent, the woman, and ultimately God. Jesus, though blameless and innocent, assumed the punishment of the lawbreaker and transformed culpability into love. 

Pure, disinterested love desires the good of others without distinction, seeing all persons as one in Christ. St. Maximos the Confessor writes:

The one who is perfect in love and has reached the summit of dispassion knows no distinction between his own and another’s, between faithful and unfaithful, between slave and freeman, or indeed between male and female. Having risen above the tyranny of the passions and looking to the one nature of man, he regards all equally and is equally disposed toward all. For him there is “neither Greek nor Jew, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free man, but Christ is everything in everything” (Gal 3:28).1

Sunrise and sunset,
Showers and snow
Fructify seedbed
Of friend and foe.

Both just and unjust
Are rolled from clay—
Divinely-breathed dust—
Pearl of God’s play.

God sees all children
As his own Son,
Victims and villains
On the Cross won.

-GMC

1 St. Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love II.30.

Saturday, 1st Week of Lent: Loving Enemies

Lent 1

“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:

“Listen to his wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity – Father, forgive them.  Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?
 
  Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgement; therefore, Father, forgive them.
 
They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; therefore, Father, forgive them.
 
They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognise my glory; therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
 

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.

The Law Made Flesh

Fra Angelico: The Crucifixion (detail), ca.1437-46
Source: Wikimedia Commons

10th week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

1 Kings 18:20-39, Psalm 25, Matthew 5:17-19

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

In the legalistic society Jesus grew up in, he witnessed the meticulous ways in which people carried out their ritual purifications, food laws, and Sabbath regulations. The heart and soul of these minute rules was love, Jesus pointed out earlier to the wise scribe (Mark 12:28-34). He had no battle to pick about words and letters in the law. Such scholarly disputations were a hindrance to his simple yet inexhaustibly profound message from the Father’s heart: the only-begotten Son of God is the Law made flesh.

All of the sacrifices of the Old Law were nailed to the Cross in Jesus Christ. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will not live. Seen in the light of the Trinity, Jesus showed us that the way to authentic personhood and communion is self-emptying. By detaching from ego and its illusory, finite possessions both material and spiritual (“mine”), persons are released into the infinity of the Triune Love (“all mine are thine, and thine are mine”).

Spiritual eyes open slowly and gradually, over centuries and generations, as humanity crawls from babyhood to adulthood as one man. In the dramatic episode of Elijah’s glorious defeat of the prophets of Baal, the lukewarm children of Israel returned to their God. However, zeal and fanaticism led Elijah to kill his opponents. With the heat of Jezebel’s threat on his neck to take his life in return, he fell into depression under a broom tree, begging the Lord to let him die. He was not fully aware of the reason for his slump, but it probably came from his excessive zeal.

No prophet ever died for his enemies but Jesus Christ. All of the arrows, violence, scorn, beatings, and hatred of the scattered children of Adam were hurled upon the Cross. And Jesus said, “I thirst.” He thirsts for our love and unity. He thirsts for our ultimate happiness which can only be obtained by dropping our arrows and emptying our hands. We are one, he told his disciples at the Last Supper. If you hurt one of the least of my brethren, you hurt me, he told Saul (later Paul) on the road to Damascus. 

In the childhood of humankind, the line between good and evil was drawn outside in the world of material extension. “Us” versus “Them,” “friends” versus “enemies,” “I” versus “You.” The line between good and evil, however, is found within the human heart, the true altar of sacrifice. The message of the Beatitudes is conquer yourself. The battle with sin and evil is within. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is replaced by, “Love your enemies.”

Stories abound from the desert fathers and mothers about the discovery of God’s universal love for all without discrimination, a realization obtained only after a great interior battle and purification.

Let us pray with the Psalmist, “Teach me your paths, my God, and guide me in your truth” (Psalm 25:4b, 5a). 

-GMC

The Lenten Gospels

The gospels, along with other readings in our lenten Masses, offer a grace to those who follow them day by day. Take an overall look. You’ll notice the frequency of Matthew’s gospel  during the first three weeks, beginning with Ash Wednesday.  As the 4th week of lent begins, John’s gospel provides most of the weekday readings.

Matthew’s gospel was a favorite of the early church for teaching and catechesis. “The confession by Peter at Caesaria Philippi along with Jesus’ promise for his church, is the midpoint and highpoint of the gospel,” writes Rudolph Schnackenburg, and in this gospel Jesus, “the Christ and Son of the Living God” speaks to his disciples “ words of everlasting life.” Now he’s speaking to us.

We shouldn’t forget the gospel’s author is Matthew the tax collector, as the gospel for the Saturday after Ash Wednesday reminds us; so you might say that Jesus wants to speak to people like Matthew and his friends, not very observant keepers of the law, but outsiders and sinners. If you identify with them, welcome to the lenten season.

Jesus teaches us how to pray and how to think and live in this world. A number of the gospels early in lent treat of prayer. ( tuesday and thursday, 1st week) Besides talking to  God, we have to live with one another. On monday of the 1st week, Jesus issues a powerful warning in Matthew’s gospel about neglecting “the least,” and in the readings for friday and saturday of the 1st week, he tells us to love others, even our enemies.

The love Jesus calls for is not just acceptable or normal or even good;  it’s Godlike. Can any of us love like God?  But there’s no watering down his challenging, radical words that are addressed, not to a few,  but to us all.

Lent’s not meant to make us comfortable; it sets our sights on loving more, but it sets the bar higher than we like. Like the Olympic games, lent calls for our best, and more. A bigger prize than a gold medal is at stake.