Updated: Mar 22, 2022
Love your enemies? Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, offer your cheek again to those who strike you? Jesus’ commandment is surely preposterous. We teach children that if somebody hits you, get away, defend yourself. Go tell your teacher, your parent, but don’t let him hit you again. Children need protection. So do we all. But since enemies are inevitable, how do we heal the wounds which can last a lifetime? What is the sense of loving those who hate us?
As memorialized in The Sound of Music, Maria von Trapp, mother of the Trapp Family Singers, knew adversity and the need to protect her children. Later in life she offered a reflection how, even without intention, a friend becomes an enemy. As Maria relates it, one day something happens. It may be a bad argument, there is bitterness. The other walks out. You don’t believe it at first, you say, he’ll come around, just wait a little. But he doesn’t, and you say, this is ridiculous, let’s meet up and resolve it. Then you hear that he is speaking about you and from that you know you he has no intention of having things as they were. Before you can think, you have an enemy. This hurts deeply. How do you love him now?
"What is the sense of loving those who hate us? "
You begin thinking of the different loves of your life. Can they apply? How you loved your parents, your best friend in school, your wedding, your love for your children, your country, your hometown, your old school, your neighborhood. So many shades of love, amazing for one short life. But as hard as you try, and pray, loving your enemy fits none of these categories. And so, Maria says, you enter a completely new love in your life, and you discover it step by step. It is completely different from all other loves. It involves stripping the emotions, calling forth the will, and entering a prayerful and purifying adventure which opens you to ever more loves.
"So many shades of love, amazing for one short life. "
We all know the difficulties of enmity and division in our society and experience the effects in our personal lives. It is the completely new love of enemies that is the test. Jesus knew there were people who couldn’t and wouldn’t be loved. He knew there were people who would sneer at him, spit on him, scourge him, put nails in his hands, hang him on a cross, laugh and leave. He knew what they would do to him if he loved them, and he loved them even more. When Jesus commands us to love our enemies, he is sharing his most important lesson. The adventure into new loves calls us forward through adversity, and the road to grace is open. God never gives up on anyone, and neither may we.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo