We are called to bless and love our enemies and those who persecute us.
According to Vatican News, the Pope gave this tough challenge during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today, June 19, 2018. He was reflecting on today’s Gospel according to St. Matthew (Mt 5:43-48), in which Jesus invites his followers to a higher standard of human relations, so as to be “perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, Christians, the Pontiff underscored, should forgive, love, and bless our enemies. The mystery of Christian life, he said, is loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors.
To be forgiven, the Pope reminded, we too must forgive. A major challenge for Christians is to overcome our feelings and resistances to bless and love those who have wronged us.
“To pray for those who want to destroy me, my enemies, so that God may bless them: This is truly difficult to understand,” the Pope admitted, adding: “We can recall events of the last century, like the poor Russian Christians who, simply for being Christians, were sent to Siberia to die of cold. And they should pray for the executing government that sent them there? How can that be? Yet many did so: they prayed.
“We think of Auschwitz and other concentration camps,” the Pope said. “Should they pray for the dictator who sought a ‘pure race’ and killed without scruple, even to pray that God should bless him? And yet many did so.”
We must learn from Jesus and martyrs, the Pope said, who practiced this “difficult logic.” We see this in Jesus’ prayer for those who put Him to death on the Cross. Jesus, Francis noted, asks God to forgive them.
“There is an infinite distance between us – we who frequently refuse to forgive even small things – and what the Lord asks of us, which he has exemplified for us: To forgive those who seek to destroy us.
It is often very difficult within families, for example, when spouses need to forgive one another after an argument, or when one needs to forgive their mother-in-law.
The Pope said this is not easy.
“Rather,” he said, “we are invited to forgive those who are killing us, who want us out of the way… Not only forgive, but even pray that God may watch over them! Even more, to love them. Only Jesus’ word can explain this.”
It is a grace, the Holy Father noted, “to understand this Christian mystery and be perfect like the Father, who gives good things to the good and the bad.”
Pope Francis concluded, calling on faithful to think today of their enemy and pray for the grace to love them.
“I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. The Mafia’s prayer is: ‘You’ll pay me back.’ The Christian prayer is: ‘Lord, give them your blessing, and teach me to love them.’ Let us think of one enemy, and pray for them. May the Lord to give us the grace to love them.”