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How to Love an Enemy

First Reading: 1 Kings 21:17-29

After the death of Naboth the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite:
“Start down to meet Ahab, king of Israel,
who rules in Samaria.
He will be in the vineyard of Naboth,
of which he has come to take possession.
This is what you shall tell him,
‘The LORD says: After murdering, do you also take possession?
For this, the LORD says:
In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth,
the dogs shall lick up your blood, too.’”
Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me out, my enemy?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“Because you have given yourself up to doing evil in the LORD’s sight,
I am bringing evil upon you: I will destroy you
and will cut off every male in Ahab’s line,
whether slave or freeman, in Israel.
I will make your house like that of Jeroboam, son of Nebat,
and like that of Baasha, son of Ahijah,
because of how you have provoked me by leading Israel into sin.”
(Against Jezebel, too, the LORD declared,
“The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.”)
“When one of Ahab’s line dies in the city,
dogs will devour him;
when one of them dies in the field,
the birds of the sky will devour him.”
Indeed, no one gave himself up to the doing of evil
in the sight of the LORD as did Ahab,
urged on by his wife Jezebel.
He became completely abominable by following idols,
just as the Amorites had done,
whom the LORD drove out before the children of Israel.

When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments
and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh.
He fasted, slept in the sackcloth, and went about subdued.
Then the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite,
“Have you seen that Ahab has humbled himself before me?
Since he has humbled himself before me,
I will not bring the evil in his time.
I will bring the evil upon his house during the reign of his son.”

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 11 AND 16

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Turn away your face from my sins,
and blot out all my guilt.
Free me from blood guilt, O God, my saving God;
then my tongue shall revel in your justice.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

NAB

DEV_J14

“Pray for those who persecute you.” Pray for them.

Have you ever tried praying for someone who has hurt you deeply? It sounds so easy . . . all you have to do is say a little prayer and, “Voila!”—all is well. In baring my soul, it has never been easy for me.

Sure, say something bad about me—I can typically let it go. Disagree on an issue that’s close to my heart—no big deal. Decide that we just don’t have much in common any more—I’m typically fine to go my separate way.

But, not in this case. There is a person in my life that I would never call an enemy. For some reason, that word seems so final to me . . . so unchangeable. And, of all the advice I’ve sought to mend the ties, to re-establish a relationship, the common denominator in the advice from others was simply: pray for this person.

So, I have. Yet, there is still a clenched fist in the depths of my heart clinging to the pain that’s been inflicted by this person. I’ve allowed myself to be hurt more by this “enemy” than any other person in my life. Some days the only way I can describe the depth of the pain is like having an anvil tied to the center of my heart, pulling downward and causing a feeling of being crushed from within . . . a very physical crushing.

I want to love the person, but there is a part of me so embittered by the situation, that I want to hate the person, too. I want to hate this child of God. And therein lies my problem. I’m praying, yet I’m only uttering words from my lips as my heart speaks a completely different language. I am not getting it.

God loves this person. Loves His child even when that very child has hurt me. And, I have to be okay with that. More than that, I have to hope for that. Even more, I have to pray for that. Because, what good is a word spoken if it is in utter opposition to the echoes of my heart.

I must love this person I’ve been afraid to call an enemy. And, I have a feeling I know how my heart will finally bend toward my will to love the one who has persecuted me . . . by praying. Praying for my enemy—their healing, their sufferings, their pain. In the end, praying for their good, even if the persecution never ends. Why? Because that is where loving an enemy begins, and He doesn’t simply ask for our prayers. He demands them.

Is there someone in your life who is persecuting you/someone who has caused you great pain? Try to spend five to ten minutes today deeply praying for that person’s well being.

photo credit

Britt Fisk is the wife of Jeremy and mother of five young kids.  She spends her days living simply in the-middle-of-nowhere-New Mexico helping with the family beef cattle operation. You can find out more about her here.

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