Pope's Morning Homily: 'Praying for Our Enemies Can Heal Our Hearts'

At Casa Santa Marta, Reminds Faithful of Twofold Power of Prayer

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Praying for our enemies can heal our hearts.
The Pope made this strong statement during his homily at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta today, reported Vatican Radio.
Recalling his own childhood in Argentina, when people prayed that dictators would go to hell, the Pope recalled how Jesus himself tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.
In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew where Jesus tells his disciples to love their enemies and noted that this instruction was in contrast to what the Doctors of the Law taught in those days: “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”
The Jewish Law, Francis said, was being taught in a way that was too theoretical, based only on the letter of the Law and not on the love of God at the heart of that Law.
Because of this, the Pontiff explained, Jesus repeats the most important commandment of the Old Testament: Love your God with all your heart, and with all your strength, and with all your soul, and your neighbour as yourself. Francis lamented that this was not at the heart of what the Doctors of the Law were teaching, as they were only worried about details and individual cases.
However, he explained, Jesus shows the true sense of the Law which he came to fulfill, offering many examples to show the commandments in a new light and to prove that love is more generous than the letter of the Law: “From ‘Do not kill’ meaning don’t insult or be angry with your brother, to the instructions to give your coat to the person who demands your shirt, or go the extra mile with the person who wants to be accompanied for one mile.”
Journey of Healing
This response, the Argentine Pope highlighted, is not just to fulfill the Law, but to help heal our hearts. The Jesuit Pontiff noted how in St. Matthew’s Gospel, as Jesus explains the commandments, there is a journey of healing. “Every heart wounded by sin – as each one of us has – must undertake this journey of healing in order to be more like ‘our heavenly Father (who) is perfect,’” he said.
The last and most difficult step on this journey towards perfection, Pope Francis warned, is contained in Jesus’ words from today’s reading: “You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
What Prayer Will Do
Francis recalled that as a child, people used to pray for God to send the dictators of that period to hell, but instead, he said, God calls us to examine our consciences and to pray for our enemies.
Before concluding, Pope Francis prayed the Lord give us grace to pray for those individuals who hurt and persecute us since the power of prayer will do two things: “it will change that person for the better and it will make us become more like children of our heavenly Father.”

Readings provided by the US bishops’ conference:

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 366

Reading 11 KGS 21:17-29

After the death of Naboth the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite:
“Start down to meet Ahab, king of Israel,
who rules in Samaria.
He will be in the vineyard of Naboth,
of which he has come to take possession.
This is what you shall tell him,
‘The LORD says: After murdering, do you also take possession?
For this, the LORD says:
In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth,
the dogs shall lick up your blood, too.’”
Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me out, my enemy?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Because you have given yourself up to doing evil in the LORD’s sight,
I am bringing evil upon you: I will destroy you
and will cut off every male in Ahab’s line,
whether slave or freeman, in Israel.
I will make your house like that of Jeroboam, son of Nebat,
and like that of Baasha, son of Ahijah,
because of how you have provoked me by leading Israel into sin.”
(Against Jezebel, too, the LORD declared,
“The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.”)
“When one of Ahab’s line dies in the city,
dogs will devour him;
when one of them dies in the field,
the birds of the sky will devour him.”
Indeed, no one gave himself up to the doing of evil
in the sight of the LORD as did Ahab,
urged on by his wife Jezebel.
He became completely abominable by following idols,
just as the Amorites had done,
whom the LORD drove out before the children of Israel.
When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments
and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh.
He fasted, slept in the sackcloth, and went about subdued.
Then the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite,
“Have you seen that Ahab has humbled himself before me?
Since he has humbled himself before me,
I will not bring the evil in his time.
I will bring the evil upon his house during the reign of his son.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 11 AND 16

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Turn away your face from my sins,
and blot out all my guilt.
Free me from blood guilt, O God, my saving God;
then my tongue shall revel in your justice.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

AlleluiaJN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMT 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that 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,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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