Today’s Gospel contains a command that is not easy for us. Jesus says 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.
That is a tall order. Especially so since we live in a society obsessed with giving people what they deserve, what we believe is their due. It is a quid pro quo way of thinking that says: If you are good to me, I’ll be good to you. Or, if I determine you are worthy, I will give you something. (Our entire welfare system is premised on determining who is worthy of being supported). And in that way of thinking, loving your neighbor and hating your enemy makes sense. Giving people only what they deserve seems logical.
Yet, Jesus calls us to something more. As Matthieu Ricard writes in his contribution to The Sunflower Symposium,
True compassion must embrace all things and everyone: the worthy and the guilty, the friend and the foe. No matter how bad someone is, we believe that the basic goodness remains. A piece of gold, after all, is still gold, even if buried in the ground. Once the dirt is removed, the true nature of the gold will be revealed.
Here are some of the questions I invite retreatants to reflect on in connection with Jesus’ command. Perhaps one or more will be a source of fruitful reflection for you today.
What happens in me are I hear Jesus speak his words about love and forgiveness?
What interferes with my ability to love as expansively and indiscriminately as Jesus does?
Where am I tempted to treat love and compassion toward others as a quid pro quo?
Are there situations (or people) that lead me to hang onto resentments?