“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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
This may be one of the most difficult of all of Christ’s teachings for us to embrace and to become part of who we are. Of course, if we can, the rewards promised are great indeed. Christ points out that even among the most despised people on the planet, they love those who love them and greet their relatives and no others. Sadly, too many of us (I, among them from time to time) do just what Christ warns against. We love only those who love us and greet only those we call our brothers and sisters but no others. There is no reward in that. Look at the picture on the right, Pope Francis is loving the unloveable and doesn’t that one picture reach into your heart and touch it? During elections and times of divisiveness (Brexit in Great Britain, immigration in Germany for example) we find it easiest to surround ourselves with those who believe exactly as we do—to which Christ would say, “Shame!” I think most of us do not want or enjoy confrontation and avoid it whenever possible. How many have you unfriended on Facebook because of their politics? We don’t want to see both sides of issues and will resort to all kinds of shameless behaviors like name-calling, lying, and even violence both physical and verbal. The news is full of headlines that no one can really trust as the truth, and, if that is the case, why then can we not see it for what it is and continue to love each other? Nothing makes me as sad as seeing friends and family who have no respect for other’s positions. I can remember a time when Senators of both parties would debate like crazy on the Senate floor but would later go out to dinner together. Senators like Everett Dirksen and Hubert Humphrey were at opposite ends of the political spectrum but never called each other names and always treated each other with respect and each counted the other as a friend. I miss those days. Christ knew how much we lost when we became insular and only wanted to be with those who were just like us. I treasure all of my friends of different nationalities and faiths. I have learned so much from each of them and hope that they have learned from me as well. There can be no learning, no wisdom gained, if we refuse to even listen to those with whom we disagree. It becomes even worse if we refuse to listen because of race or gender or sexual orientation or political beliefs or even physical limitations. Do you discount or not respect those who are fat, or thin, or rich, or poor, or homeless, or own yachts? Almost all of us do to some extent, but Christ calls us to be like Pope Francis and to hug and hold the albino and the deformed. There is a hymn I really like that says that “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Oh, how I pray that that will come to be with more than just a few. Do not hate those whom God has made, His children, just because they don’t look like you or talk like you or eat the foods you do. You are only hurting yourself when you cannot pray for those who persecute you and love those who hate you. If it wasn’t humanly possible to do it, Christ wouldn’t have called us to do it—no matter how hard it is for us. If you and I start loving the unloveable, we throw a pebble into a pond whose ripples will never cease spreading.