Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

When people do wrong to us, how do we feel?  Depending on how severe and how unexpected it was, a whole range of emotions might come upon us.  Anger, pain, disappointment and even disillusionment.  We might feel a sense of injustice about the whole situation.  And we might want to demand justice for the situation.

If someone takes something that is rightly ours, we want it back.  And we might want the thief to be punished.  If someone betrays our trust, we are hurt.  And less likely to trust again.  If the person is in an organizational position designated to keep that trust, we also likely think less of the whole organization and its leadership as a result. 

If someone consistently hurts us or does harm to us, we might regard them as an enemy.  A typical definition of an enemy is simply someone who is antagonistic toward us, especially someone that seeks to do harm to us.

Of all the things that we think to do towards an enemy, it is likely that the last thing that we think to do for them is to love them.  But that is what Jesus tells us to do.

Perhaps our understanding of love complicates our reception of this teaching.  We might think of the romantic love of a husband and a wife.  We think of the love of a parent for their child.  We think of close and trusting relationships between two people in close proximity to one another.

That understanding is not what this teaching is about.  Do we have to cozy up to our enemy and intentionally put ourselves in a place where we can be easily hurt again?  No.

If we use the definition of love used by Saint Thomas Aquinas and others, this teaching makes more sense to us.  When we are called to love our enemies, we are called to “will the good” for them.  This definition is often expanded to say that we should “will the good of the other for the sake of the other.”  It does mean that we need to stop wishing harm to our enemies. 

It does not mean that we must nurture a close relationship with our enemies.  It does not mean that we must trust our enemies.  It does not mean that we forget what they did.  Prudence does come into play here.

It might mean that we pray for them.  It does mean that we want good things for them. 

What is keeping me from loving my enemies?