MT. 5: 38-48

The readings this Sunday both agree on one thing: God desires that we love one another. How to treat your neighbor? The first reading says: Love your neighbor as yourself. How about your enemies? The Lord Jesus says: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

In our experience though, loving is not easy, even for those who say they are already lovers. There are many obstacles to love, with varying degrees and intensity, leading us to become separated or alienated from each other. Which of the following can you identify with?

Some people easily give in to displeasure. When someone says or does even a trivial offense against us, we bear a grudge in our heart. And we show it by tantrums, cold shoulder treatment or by sulking in a corner. Some people experience aversion against people they do not like. They become allergic even to the mention of a person’s name and worse, to the presence of the person who they avoid like a plague.

Then there are those who experience anger in their hearts against others. A boiling rage takes over that gives a person the courage to shout, run after, confront or challenge another person to a fight. Anger can also be a silent but decaying sensation that saps one’s energy and deprives one of joy.  When anger is intensified, it becomes hatred and people with hatred in their hearts develop a violent desire to harm, shame or eliminate a perceived enemy. Lastly, there is indifference, which is the reverse of love. Indifference happens when you totally ignore another person as if he or she does not exist. Which of these obstacles to love have you experienced?

It is understandable that as human beings we try to cope with the hurt others inflict on us, whether real or imaginary. We naturally shield ourselves from disappointment, betrayal and harm. But to cling to unloving ways of coping is self-defeating for the first person you harm is yourself. You do not become the person you were created to be, an image of God, and as the Lord Jesus says, perfect as the Father.

Instead of employing anger, in its various forms, let us try the only solution that heals, that frees, that gives peace. Let us ask the Lord to give us love for others, even for our enemies. As we receive his love daily in our life, let us ask for the courage to love even when it is difficult, even when it hurts, and especially when it hurts. Amen. (ourparishpriest 2023; thanks to fr tam nguyen for photo)