February 19th – VII Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear Friends,

“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44) 

This is such a difficult gospel. While it is indeed Good News, the gospel is not supposed to be easy. Jesus is going to challenge us, make us uncomfortable, all for the sake of purging from our souls all that is unholy so that we may be worthy of heaven. As Christians, we understand that we are called to love our neighbor, but love our enemies? That is a tough commandment to follow at times, but it is not an optional commandment. Jesus was once asked, “who is my neighbor?” When preaching on this gospel, I like to ask, “who is my enemy and more importantly, why do we have one?” We are so used to hearing about enemies, and we are so quick to demonize anyone who opposes us or thinks differently than we do. This is not Christian to say the least.  

As Christians, we must always seek the higher ground. The word hate is tossed around and used so often in our society. We cannot have any room in our hearts for hate. What does hate accomplish? It definitely does not bring us closer to God, and it does not solve any difference that we may have with those that may be classified as “our enemies.” Instead of hate, sow seeds of love. If those who may “persecute us” reject that love, we can rest easy knowing that we are doing God’s will. Let me share with you a shining example of sowing love in the face of hatred and oppression. Some years ago, there were massive demonstrations in Venezuela opposing the government. There was a stirring video that went viral of a Venezuelan young woman pleading with riot police to stand down and join them because they all share the same blood of their homeland. She pleaded with them because she did not want any more violence and tried to appeal to their hearts because she knew that deep inside they did not want any more violence either because police were being killed as well. This courageous young woman stared down and pleaded with the stoic riot police and even caught two of the women police officers crying under their helmets and face shields. She could have easily been arrested right there and probably beaten as we’ve seen done in so many countries around the world, but she stood her ground and asked for unity and harmony for her people. Not a word of hate came out of her mouth, but the love and concern for those who were her “enemies” is what made her witness so popular on the internet and an example of living out today’s gospel.  

When recalling that story, my thoughts turned to the current situation in Nicaragua where a bishop and many of his priests have been arrested simply for proclaiming the gospel and refusing to abandon their flock. My thoughts also turn to our Nigerian priests who worry about their homeland where priests are kidnapped or killed regularly and Christians are persecuted. Yet I have never heard my brother priests use the word “hate” when referencing those who persecute their brothers and sisters.

Hate accomplishes nothing. Jesus is calling us to perfection as Christians. He is calling us to holiness of life so that we may win over those who are consumed and corrupted by hate. A holy army of love is far more powerful than any army with weapons. We must live out this gospel of loving our enemies so that we can become an army of saints. Pope Francis once said that “to be a saint is not a luxury; it is necessary for the salvation of the world.” If we want to save our world and our homelands, we must become saints! As Lent approaches this week, bury hatred, love your enemies, and win them over with love. This is what Christ did, and all he did was win for us a glorious eternal homeland in heaven. 

God bless you all,

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