Love your Enemies
The moving words of Pope John Paul II at Drogheda in 1979 capture the heart of this Sunday’s Gospel. Many of you will remember his words to a crowd of over 300,000 people at one of the most difficult moments in our history. Addressing himself directly to men and women engaged in sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, he said: “On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace.You may claim to seek justice. I too believe in justice and seek justice. But violence only delays the day of justice. Violence destroys the work of justice”
The Pope made it clear that he understood the conflicting traditions of both sides involved in the conflict. He recognised the frustrations and even the anger that both sides harboured towards the other. But he also made it very clear that resorting to violence was never the right solution. Violence is an expression of hatred and bitterness. Violence can never bring about justice. And history has proven the truth of the Pope’s words. It was only when enemies began to accept each other’s right to exist and then start to grow in mutual respect for each other, that dialogue became possible and peace began to dawn on the horizon.
The call of the Gospel is for each of us to do just that on a daily basis. We don’t need a gun or a knife to act with violence to another person. Very often, violence towards another may be as simple a harsh judgment, or a negative comment that can do irreparable damage. We all know how easy it is to be kind or grateful to someone who shows us kindness, or to the people we love the most in the world. But the reality of life is that we don’t always meet with kindness, or support from others.
Sometimes our experience of other people can be one of deep pain and hurt. And the natural human response is to respond in kind, and to harbour feelings of anger or bitterness towards that person. But the Gospel challenges us to do precisely the opposite, to go against all human logic and instinct and to respond to the violence of others with the love and the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. And that’s very hard. Sometimes nearly impossible even. But it is the call of Christ. It is our primary vocation as his followers. Because we are Christ’s instruments in this world and he uses us to break that chain of violence and destruction and bring about a better world where the peace and the harmony of God can reign. That’s the Kingdom of God.
The Christian way is about taking on the mind of Christ, allowing ourselves to be drawn more and more into his loving friendship so that we can learn to live and love in the world as he did.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. That’s the heart of today’s gospel message. And it is a challenge that Jesus puts to each one of us, because he knows that someone has to start loving so as to break the chains of hatred and violence between people. And Christ believes that that someone is us!