In today’s Gospel, Jesus twice says we are to “love our enemies”
We have all heard this phrase so often, it likely flows over us without much notice. While watching a video this week on loving our enemies with our teens, some unique insights to this phrase were mentioned.
First of all, this loving our enemies is a unique teaching of Catholicism. It is not found in Islam nor Hinduism nor Budhism nor atheism. Indeed, Love as an action, as working for the good of the other, even our enemies, is not present in any other religious tradition other than Christianity, although there are certain people already in the Old Testament who loved their enemies, including the story from our first reading today where David has the opportunity to kill king Saul (Identified by David's companion as David's enemy) but David instead chooses to take Saul’s spear to a hill and call out to Saul’s camp letting Saul know he had the opportunity to kill him, but that chose not to. This action of David sparing his enemy leads to his enemy, King Saul’s repentance.
Along those same lines, If the early Catholics, when suffering persecution in Rome under Nero and other emperors, had resorted to terrorism or fighting against the Roman Empire, it is likely that Rome would have never been converted.
An adviser to Emperor Nero, the Emperor who had Rome burned and blamed it on the Christians, that adviser related the following “Tyranny has at its disposal steel and fire, chains and wild animals to set upon prisoners. I can recall those prisons, the tortures of the cross, the iron hooks, and that pale driven into a man’s midriff and forced out his mouth. I can still see how limbs were torn from bodies attached to wagons driven in opposite directions, and all the rest of the inventions of diabolical fury…in the midst of all these tortures, there was one who did not moan, no he did not beg for his life, no, rather he smiled as though there was happiness in his heart.”
A willingness to suffer persecution even unto death has always led to a rapid flourishing of the Church. As the saying goes, the blood of the martyrs is the seedbed for the flourishing of the Church.
Let us love not just those who love us back but also love even those who hate us, even up to the point of laying down our lives if that what is asked of us.