Continuing where He left off in yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus gives in today’s Gospel from Matthew another instruction that seems so very difficult to us: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
I think part of the seeming impossibility with the command to love our enemies is that we confuse love with the warm, gushy feelings we have toward our family and friends. Those people who are good to us and affirm us. It is, as Jesus says, not all that challenging to feel good toward those who are good to us. (“Do not the tax collectors do the same.”)
The love of which Jesus is speaking, however, is not the affectionate feeling we typically label as love. Rather it is the deep desire for the wellbeing of the other person, the desire for their ultimate happiness and union with God and ourselves. Buddhists might label it loving kindness, the desire for another’s happiness that is not dependent on what the person has done to or for us.
If we are going to take Jesus’ command seriously (and not just toss it in the basket with the other inconvenient things Jesus says that we don’t really want to deal with), the question for us is what will we do to cultivate the love Jesus asks of us? For surely it requires some work on our part.