Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Love your enemies...pray for those who persecute you

I have heard this reading many times, where Jesus advises us not to hate those who hate us but to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Not easy. I remember one time someone was talking with our founder and this person said, "well, we can love people but we don't have to like them." To which our founder, Fr. Jim, replied, "Have you ever heard of someone that Jesus didn't like?"

Good point.

In this month, "dedicated to love", lol, it occured to me how often we throw around the word "love" but don't really mean it. I sometimes say it myself, "oh I love coffee" or "I love that song" etc. But, to continue my thoughts from yesterday, our love is tested and revealed when we sacrifice. I remember seeing this movie (more like a mini-series) about this young man and woman. The young man wanted to be a priest while the young woman secretly hoped he would marry her instead. However, as the story went on and they enountered various difficulties, their love for each other grew and matured until, at the very end, they sacrificed for each other to do what was right. He became a priest and offered to God his own life (because the young woman was very sick) and she offered the young man back to God because she knew he was chosen by God to become a priest. Now, some of it was really cheesy, but I was struck by some of the dialogue in which the woman praying to God, thanked Him for creating this young man and allowing him to come into her life and the young man's prayer to God thanking Him for showing His love through his friend. We find that the truest love is devoid of selfishness and self interest.

Personally, I think one of the reasons why loving enemies is so hard is because of our own woundedness and self-centeredness. We see in the saints the ability to look past their own injury incurred, to the welfare of the one inflicting the injury. They used the gift of their will (and could look beyond their own initial emotions) to love. They could see that the people inflicting this pain were in need of help themselves and were able to say with Jesus, "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do."

Some people look at that and say, "impossible."But what most people don't understand is that saints didn't start out like that. And even as saints became saints, their wills and emotions didn't always meet. It probably was not much fun initially to go out and serve people who were openly persecuting them, but they could look past themselves and do things out of love for God. God gives us enough grace everyday to become saints. It starts out small. He gives us little opportunities everyday to do good, to serve, to bring kindness. When He sees us taking advantage of these little things, He will give us bigger things. The path to holiness (becoming one with God) is just like any other school. We are given beginner lessons and then if we grow we move on to more advanced lessons, and we grow deeper and deeper into the heart of Jesus.

People who really live the Gospel, and I mean REALLY live it and not just talk about it, are happy. They are joyful because they live the life that Jesus lived. They love because of God, in God and through God. And He is happy.

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