Wednesday, 28th Week OT A
Pray for your Enemies
Do we ever find ourselves rooting for Jesus in this Gospel passage? “Give it to ’em hard, Lord! They deserve it!” We imagine ourselves there in the scene—our arms sternly crossed, our heads shaking in disapproval of those oh-so hypocritical Pharisees. Soon our thoughts turn to someone we know who “should also receive a good verbal lashing!”
In our first reading St. Paul lists several works of the flesh, rotten fruit so to speak, contrasting them with the fruits of the Spirit. Have you seen any of these at play in the run up to next month’s election? Rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions and factions. Sound familiar?
Today’s political climate is a good example of how our disdain for those who disagree with us on public policy, especially issues of morality, can yield rotten fruit.
As Christians we are called to help illuminate the consciences of those around us so that they might have a closer relationship with God. However, if illuminating their consciences is merely a euphemism for “throwing the book at them”, we need to stop and see if Christ’s words don’t apply to us as well: “You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”
My question for all of us today is this: “What are we doing to lift a finger to help those with whom we disagree?” Are we praying for those politicians and their followers who want laws that provide unrestricted access to abortion, or are we hating them and wishing evil upon them? Are we loving them and praying for their conversion, or do we secretly hope that some disaster will befall them to take them out of the game?
Are we praying for those who appear to have little regard for the sin of racism, for those who have outbursts of fury on Twitter and Facebook against illegal immigrants, who build walls instead of bridges, or for those who lack respect for all people as children of God, even those who break our laws or promote an agenda that is motivated by hatred and selfishness?
I have found that there is true healing and grace that comes from praying for my so-called enemies; those who disagree with me or oppose me in some way. Rather than allowing myself to be angry with those who have different views than I do, I pray for them. Rather than cursing those who seek to promote their own self-interests rather than the greater good, I pray for them.
My prayer is not that my enemies will be shamed or humiliated, but that they will have a change of heart and come to understand and act out God’s law of love. That they will see that hurling insults at their rivals does nothing to change hearts, but only entrenches the other side in their opposition to them.
My prayer is that all people may experience the grace and love of Jesus Christ so as to turn from their sins and begin to bear the fruits of the Spirit.
We all have work to do in this area of our spiritual lives. Let us ask God today for grace to love and pray for all people, especially our enemies, praying for their good and their conversion of heart, rather than for their downfall.
God bless you.