You have heard the commandment, “You shall love your countryman but hate your enemy. My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are sons of your Heavenly Father, for his sun rises on the bad and the good, he rains on the just and the unjust. ”(Mt. 5: 43 – 45)
Loving your enemy must be one of the most difficult commands of Jesus.
In the book Outliers, the author Malcolm Gladwell, shared the story about how violence prevailed in the stretch of the Appalachian Mountains known as the Cumberland Plateau, in Kentucky, USA. He told of the stories of families engaged in deadly feud with other families where the cycle of violence stretched on for so many years. For example, the Martin-Tolliver feud in Rowan County, Kentucky, in the mid-1880s featured three gunfights, three ambushes, and two house attacks and ended in a two-hour gun battle involving one hundred armed men. The Baker-Howard feud in Clay County, Kentucky, began in 1806, with an elk-hunting party gone bad, and didn’t end until the 1930s, when a couple of Howards killed three Bakers in an ambush. The author further said that these were just the well-known feuds; there were a total of one thousand indictments stretching from the 1860s to the beginning of the twentieth century, in a region that then never numbered more than fifteen thousand people and many more violent acts never even made it to the indictment stage.
Being in any of those families must be difficult, more so stressful, that we couldn’t imagine how it was then in such a time and place. When everyone is hot-tempered, how could peace reign? How could people go on with their lives normally, when everyone is living in fear as to when the next gun battle would commence? Living in those villages didn’t only invoke fear, but also deep hatred and anger. The question as to when this would end must always be on top of people’s minds. There must be more to life than killing and violence.
Living in the “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” environment must be unknowingly normal for many, because most of us think that no way others should be ahead of us. We extract revenge even in the most petty of offenses so that things become equal. “Dapat lang” (should be) is all we would like to say. Difficult to do the opposite. Quite hard to follow Jesus command. Our human nature interferes and we ignore the way to peace and harmony.
However, when we talk of the Lord’s commandment, let us be reminded that while we as human beings think this is hard, we can do this with God’s grace. Jesus is not talking about human love, as he understands our fickleness and weakness. Jesus is talking about Divine love. Through prayer, we can “tame our heart” (Fr. Armand Robleza, SDB), and forgive those who have sinned against us.
The Christian life is never easy. It is demanding so to say. We need Christ’s blessings to overcome our shallow human emotions. We need God’s grace to follow His will for us. Thus, we can measure our maturity in the Faith to the extent of how we allow the Spirit to move us. His love for us is true and faithful, even with our foolishness and pride. We shouldn’t despair, because with His Grace, we can do it. Our love for God should be our motivation that we keep on trying again and again. Only His love can make it possible. Only Divine Love. Reflecting His love can make it happen.
This Sunday we commemorated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. Also, this month of June is dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the ultimate symbol of God’s love for us. Let us reflect on His Most Sacred Heart, which isn’t just a symbol, but also real and living. The Heart of Jesus isn’t confined but continues to reach out to all humanity, through the faithful who allow the Spirit to use them in spreading God’s love to others.
May Jesus through his Body and Blood, who we share in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, give us the wisdom and the strength to overcome the challenges of faithfulness and reflecting God’s love to others.