Saturday of the 1st Week of Lent
Love of Enemies
Antisthenes said: “Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.”
When we are hurt, it is our natural instinct to get back at the one who hurt us. That is why one of the difficult things to do as a Christian is obeying this commandment, love your enemies. How can you love somebody who hurt you! But Jesus insists that this is the acid test of a true follower. He said in today’s gospel: “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute.” And, many times, Jesus has shown us an example like when He was hanging on the cross. He was praying to the Father saying: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
When we are hurt, it is our natural instinct to take revenge at the one who hurt us. But Jesus is asking us to go against this urge. Pope John Paul II gave an inspiring example by visiting in prison the Turkish terrorist, Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who had seriously wounded him in an assassination attempt. The Pope wanted to personally tell Agca that he forgives him.
How then should we react to people who have hurt us? Terri Sorter and Ed Gaffney, quoted by Fr. Francisco Estepa, SVD (from: Bible Diary 2008) in his homily, in their article “Bringing Peace to the World – One Relationship at a Time” (in Human Development Vol. 28, Number One – Spring 2007) suggest four simple steps which they called four Gs:
1. Glorify God. This first step calls us to pray for enlightenment. This is asking God to suspend our natural, human reaction toward a person who has hurt us and prayerfully ask God to open our minds.
2. Got the Log Out of Our Own Eye. This second G asks us to take responsibility for the contribution we might have in making an enemy of the other even if we have not initiated the conflict. This step asks us to identify the role we have played in the conflict. It is naming our own fault. It might be our attitude, our words and actions, or our sins of omission.
3. Gently Restore. This G calls us to be humble in acknowledging to someone how we have hurt them or how we reacted to the hurt we felt by their words and/or actions. Although there is no assurance how this action will be taken by the other, our faith calls us to take this step for the sake of the relationship and for our witnessing. Of course, without the grace of prayer, it would be hard to take this step.
4. Go and be Reconciled. This G calls for forgiveness from the heart. It is the forgiveness that we pray to the Father in the Lord’s Prayer. We are called to take this difficult step because we believe in the forgiveness of Jesus both for ourselves and for the people who have hurt us.
The best thing that we can do as regards to our enemies is to easily forgive them especially those who hate us and not those we hate by reminding ourselves that they are acting in ignorance and that one day the truth will dawn on them. And also Debbie Morris, a surviving victim of Robert Willie (of Dead Man Walking), said, “Justice didn’t do a thing to heal me. Forgiveness did!” She points out a valuable lesson. When we forgive, it is another step towards healing. All of the justice and all of the anger in the world won’t lead to healing but forgiveness is a necessity in the healing process.