Love your Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. (Matthew 5:38-42)
What a wonderful Gospel reading for the midpoint in this Year of Mercy—and in the midst of a particularly nasty political campaign year! In announcing the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis said, “Encountering mercy means encountering God. It can transform your life … and your ability to embrace and experience all of life.” Is it valid to assume that the opposite is true? When I seek revenge or to strike back at one who has wounded me physically or verbally, am I not pushing God away—preventing my ability to embrace and experience the fullness of God’s presence in others?
At times, this rancorous political season has descended into personal name-calling and threats, and it is easy to view it as something shameful that only politicians do. But politicians seem to know quite well that we, the public, respond to these types of tactics. It is said that when we are threatened, there is a basic instinct in all of us to respond with “fight or flight.” If I feel that someone has hurt me verbally, my first instinct is very often to strike back, even before considering the possibility that there may be some truth in the criticism being given, and often overlooking the chance to use reason in the situation.
A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. draws on this Gospel reading: “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert.” The instinct to fight back when I feel somehow wounded makes me blind to the issue, and more importantly, blind to the presence of God in the other person.
The Year of Mercy is more than a platitude. It is a challenge to open our eyes—to resist the blindness of our instinct to fight back first and think later. It is a strong reminder in these contentious times to both seek and grant mercy.
Prayer for Today
Almighty and merciful God, we pray to you for our brothers and sisters in Orlando who have endured violence and terror in the past few days. We pray also for all those who died in the attacks, for those who were wounded, and for all those who are in mourning. Reconcile all peoples who are divided and send your Holy Spirit to make all one in the peace and the justice that you alone are capable of giving us. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.