In Loving Your Enemy

The day after the horrific shooting in Orlando, the gospel passage at mass was Matthew 5: 38-42 . “You have heard it said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.” And in verse 43 , Jesus adds an even greater challenge as he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies…” How can anyone but the Lord himself give his heart to such a command? And these words come to us as just that: a command. How do we understand such an injunction? Do we brush it aside as a fond but impractical wish? As pretty poetry? No. This is something Jesus calls all his disciples to practice. So how? How do we love – not just pray for, or even forgive – but love an enemy such as that young man who murdered all those people. Or the terrorists who plague our world? Or the spouse who has abandoned his family? The scheming employee / employer who steals from your pocket? To love an enemy is quite a leap of faith. Well, here is a thought.

While on retreat, I watched a hummingbird that was jealously guarding two feeders filled with sugar water. There was more food than it could ever consume. But whenever another hummingbird approached, it would attack the intruder, not allowing it a single sip. This went on for more than a half hour. I thought, “All that energy and time to stop all else from sharing in the abundance.” Maybe that is how we begin to learn how to love our enemy. By sharing the abundance with whomever comes to our feeder. The deserving and the undeserving. The washed and the unwashed. Whomever God puts in our path. I was once in a checkout line and the mother in front of me, obviously poor, couldn’t afford the small bag of diapers that she had handed the clerk. I offered to cover the expense. (“Only a few bucks. No big deal.”)

She looked at me, asked me to wait, ran back to the diaper section, leaving her two kids standing right there with me, and returned with her arms filled with two jumbo sized packages! My first reaction was that of the clerk: disgust. But who knows what’s in her head? And who knows how is her life?

Yes, it was wrong of her, but God placed her in my path, so why not share from the abundance. I think that is where loving our enemy begins. Give from the abundance. Which leads to praying for the enemy. Which leads to forgiving the enemy. Small steps which lead to that precipice from which we must one day leap.

Fr. Jim