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Love Your Enemies, Cont.

Today’s Gospel reading, a continuation of yesterday’s, goes into further detail about the importance of forgiveness and loving our enemies:

“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. (Mt. 5:43-48)

The priest at Mass today offered some great words about loving our enemies. First he pointed out that love is not a feeling, it is a decision – it is not an act of emotion but an act of the will. We don’t have to feel good about our enemies, we don’t have to like them, per se, but we should always will them good.

Next he reminded us that we love our enemies not because we excuse or approve of their evil deeds, but because of what they can become. Even our enemies can become saints and we should never give up on them. We see this especially in the example of St. Stephen and St. Paul. As St. Stephen was being stoned to death, under the supervision of St. Paul (Saul, at the time), he cried out with love for his persecutors, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Later we know that Saul was converted and became a great preacher and example of the Gospel.

In the example I provided yesterday of St. Maria Goretti, during the 20 hours she suffered after being attacked she forgave and prayed for Alessandro. After seeing a vision of her in his jail cell he converted and, when released, took up residence in a Capuchin monastery and worked in its garden.

This is why we love and forgive our enemies. As children of a loving God, everyone has the potential to become a saint, which we should always support and encourage.

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