There they are, old friends from college. Not really friends, we still run in the same circle, though. Insensitive during our years of infertility, un-congratulatory when we finally did have a baby, and making belittling comments at social gatherings all have landed them on my “bad list.” “Should we go say hi?”my husband asks. I look pleadingly at him and shake my head. And so we spend the entire evening dodging and avoiding.
I don’t have a lot of enemies. Compared to the Israelites who had gentile neighbors with a history of warring, and who were living under Roman oppression, I’d say I’m fortunate enough to have no one in my life that I really consider an enemy. But we all have those people on our “bad lists.” That colleague at work who makes jokes at your expense, or the unstable relative who is draining and incapable of returning love. These are the people who annoy us, make us feel bad, and we’d just rather not be around them.
But God is calling is out of our comfort zones today to love those very people.
In today’s Gospel Jesus takes the social norm, love your neighbors and hate your enemies (and His audience had some real enemies) and He’s upping the ante. Loving those who love us in return is not enough anymore. Instead we are called to love those who we don’t like, those who give us nothing in return, those who make our lives a nightmare. After all, it’s easy to love people who love us back, anyone can do that. But loving our enemies? That requires patience, humility, selflessness, all the virtues I struggle so much to put into practice. This is the self-sacrificial love that drove Christ to the cross to save sinners like us. This, my dear sisters, is what we are called to imitate.
This is a demanding kind of love we are being called to. And it makes me so aware of all the times I have chosen to withhold love. Thankfully there is grace, for the times we fail and for the times we can’t love on our own strength.
Anna Coyne is a wife, mother, knitter, gardener, and convert to the Catholic faith. Read more about her here.