Heroic Love

Matthew 5: 43-48
1 Kgs 21: 17-29 / Ps 51: 3-6, 11, 16

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …
(Matthew 5:44)

We’ll always tend to alienate
The people that we cannot trust;
Let’s learn to love, and not to hate
Those who are different from us.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 43-48)

Reflection

Clearly, Jesus is teaching us a higher standard of love than that taught by the scribes and Pharisees. There is no reward for a kind of love that takes no effort to practice. To be worthy children of God, we must love the way He loves all men, with no discrimination, showering His blessings and trials both on the righteous and the sinners.

While it may seem that loving one’s enemy is almost an impossible proposition, Jesus is telling us that we must elevate our standard of love to the level of the divine. Which is why He said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It is only impossible if we try to love the “unlovable” on our own human effort. But if we pray for God’s grace to transform our hearts and help us to forgive our enemies, then we will eventually understand the true meaning of love in the perspective of Jesus.

If we reflect on what our Lord has been trying to tell us in these last two paragraphs of chapter five of Matthew’s Gospel, we can see that He has been presenting to us what the character of God our Father really is. Jesus lived this example of righteousness in His life, and He wants us to reflect all its aspects in our own life as well. For instance, His love is not influenced by our behavior. “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt.5:45). As St. Paul said, “God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8). God’s love is pure, unaffected by our sinfulness, sacrificial, and heroic. I remember a Philippine army soldier who exemplified this heroic kind of love in an encounter with a group of insurgents many years ago somewhere in the hinterlands of Mindanao. He brought one of the rebels who was severely wounded to a rural hospital, and there donated one liter (two units) of his own blood to save the enemy’s life. His heroism demonstrated how he was able to love his enemy, and be counted as a peacemaker more than as a good soldier.

There is more animosity and conflict in the world today not so much because of competition for land, resources, or power — there are more than enough to go around — but because it is easier to hate or alienate than to love and trust those we perceive to be different from us. This has been the case between Jews and Palestinians in Israel, Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, Indians and Pakistanis in the subcontinent, ethnic conflicts in Africa and other parts of the world, and even in our own backyard between Christians and Muslims in Mindanao. As long as we believe this “law of differences”, there will never be true peace. The only way to peace is what our Lord Jesus teaches us – to love our enemies despite their faults, just as God loves us in spite of all our imperfections. Nobody’s perfect. Only the love of God is.

Grant us, dear God, to learn how to love our enemies, so that we may enjoy the peace that only You can give. Not as the world teaches do we learn to love, but from the lessons that Your Son, our Lord Jesus imparts to us, and through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

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