From her death bed, the wife called her husband and said,
"One month after I die I want you to marry Sandy."
"Sandy! But she is your enemy!" he replied.
"Yes, I know that! I've suffered all these years so let her suffer now."
Most of us, sadly, go through life with no matter how hard we try, few people seem still to hate us. There are people at work who are jealous of us or have set themselves against us. There are people in our families who hold grudges against us for some mysterious reason that we can never understand. And there are people who seem to dislike us or wish us ill for no good reason. It’s a sad and hard part of human life. And when we hear Jesus telling us to love our enemies, it seems to make things even harder.
"You have heard 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.”
Obviously, Jesus is trying to break us from the law of justice: an eye for an eye and move us into the law of love. He is trying to liberate us from the vicious circle of life. But there’s a problem: How are we supposed to love our enemies sincerely? Are we really supposed to pray for ... whom? For people who hate us? For people who work against us? For people who want us to fail? It seems impossible!
You see nowadays on TV lots of movie themes capture the topic of revenge. Why are these themes so catchy? Because it’s real, it’s human. We all want that so- called fair feeling at some point, we say to ourselves “I want them to feel the pain that they made me feel. They deserve to be punished. It's only fair! But I wonder what if God responded with revenge on us? What if God had no mercy on us? What if God said it's only fair? But He doesn't do that. God knew that revenge might taste sweet, but it has a bitter aftertaste. For him, the sweetest revenge is forgiveness, is to love those who hate us.
When Jesus talks about loving our enemies, he is not talking about the feeling of falling in love with our enemies. He is not talking about love in a sense of feeling or attraction. For example:
A mother asked her son: what does your girlfriend love about you?
The son replied: "She thinks I am handsome, talented, and a good dancer."
"And what do you love about her? asked the mom.
The replied, " What I love about her is that she thinks I am handsome, talented, and a good dancer. "
Is that love? No definitely not.
The true/unconditional love must be like what Jesus said in the Gospel:
What good is it if you only greet those who greet you, if you only love those who love you? You must be all loving as your heavenly Father is all loving, for he makes his sun (s-u-n) shine on good and bad alike, and makes his rain on saints and sinners alike. That is true/authentic love – the love we are called to share. This love is like listening to a symphony- to be sensitive to the whole of the symphony. Can you imagine someone listening to a symphony, and only hears the drums or give so much value to the drums and the other instruments are drown down. A good musician who loves music would listen to every one of those instruments. He may have his favorite instrument, but he will listen to them all. That’s a genuine and authentic love.
Is it possible for a rose to say I will give my perfume to good people and withhold it from bad people? The rose by its very nature, cannot but love all. Is it possible for a candle to say I will give my light to good people in this church and withhold it from the bad. Is it possible for a tree to say I will give my shade to good people, but hide it from the bad? It cannot. The tree will give shade even to the man who is cutting it down. Love so enjoys the loving that it is unaware of itself. The way the candle is busy shining with no thought of whether it is helping others or not. Love in this sense has no object. It is simply Is. It is totally free. The moment force or control enters, love dies. Think how the candle leaves you free. It will not force its light on you, it does not drag you in even you stumble in the dark.
So freedom is just another word for love. Like the tree, the rose, and the candle, love gives and expects nothing in return. This kind of love is called agape in Greek. Agape is a total self-giving love. It does not pick and choose. It loves all and gives all. Agape begins with God the Father in his act of creation. It continues with Jesus who gave all for us. Jesus’self-giving act sets up a model of love for us to deliver us from the bondage of law. He transforms law into love for only love will set us free. If you live a life of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life of seeking revenge, we will never get out such a bloody circle of life.
|Fr. THI VAN HOANG is the Parochial Vicar |
at St. John the Baptist in San Lorenzo, CA
We will be forever slaves of the so- called justice system. There must be one party who goes ahead to break this vicious circle with forgiveness. That party must be us for we are called to be all loving like the Father is loving. God wants us to break the cycle of hatred by not always insisting on getting our own way, but going out of our way to do good to others, to forgive them even when they don't deserve it. That makes who we are, loving Christians. Amen!