“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus gives us a hard pill to swallow – love your enemies. It may be difficult, if not impossible to “love” to our enemies, but what Jesus demands of us is that we allow our rain and our sun to shine on our enemies. Do not practice selective kindness; be good to everyone including those who hate you. Be good to them not because they deserve it but because you are not like them. This is what it means to be perfect.
In asking us to be perfect, Jesus wants us to be like God who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rejoices at their repentance. Jesus wants us to pray for our enemies, that God would touch their hearts and bring about their conversion. Jesus wants us to avoid retaliating the wrongs our enemies have done but instead, to be kind to them whenever we get the opportunity. Jesus wants us to rid our hearts of bitterness against our enemies.
Remember that in yesterday’s Gospel passage, Jesus told us that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we would not enter the kingdom of heaven. Today, Jesus is saying that if we only love those who love us, we are not different from the rest of men. The type of righteousness Jesus demands of us is above average. It is a righteousness that seeks the wellbeing of one’s enemies rather than taking pleasure in their destruction.
In today’s first reading, we hear the voice of Moses saying: “you have declared this day to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes and ordinances, to obey His voice and the Lord has declared that you are a people of His possession, that He will set you high above all nations, you shall be a people holy to the Lord.”
What does it mean to be holy to the Lord? It is to be “set apart” that is, to be different from the rest of the world. If the people of the world believe strongly in the principle of “an eye for an eye”, we who are different should believe and practice the opposite. When we are slapped on one cheek, we should turn the other. This is what it takes to be holy, that is, set apart; different from the rest of the world.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to love all my enemies as myself. Amen.
Bible Study: Deut. 26:16-19, Ps. 119:1-2,4-5,7-8, Matthew 5:43-48).