Seventh Sunday, Year C, 20 February, 2022: 1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38
This Gospel carries the extremely hard commandment to love our enemies. It’s not just the alienating nature, the repulsive aspect of people we dislike or who have hurt us; the underlying problem is the nature of love. It’s spontaneous. Whereas love is somehow situated in the will, I just can’t will to turn it on or off like a light switch. Love has a life of its own and visits me as it wishes. The same could be said of antipathy or hatred: they all are more likely to control me than I could ever command them.
So what can I do?
If they are, as I say, visitors what I can do is enhance the hospitality I offer love or withdraw the hospitality I offer antipathy and hatred?
If I continually rehearse the wrong that’s been done to me, if I keep a scrupulous account of my enemy’s faults, if I never explore my role, my contribution to these alienating exchanges, if I cast myself as the victim, then I am feeding either hatred and antipathy. That behavior may even provide them with a guest room and give them full run of my house. Even when they have business elsewhere, they’ll be back as often as possible, since they are treated so well.
But if, when they drop by, I merely acknowledge their presence at my door, exchange a few polite words but remind them that I have—like they—so many other things to do and send them on their way, they will hesitate to visit.
Now when love visits, the worst thing I could do is lock the door behind my guest or put love on my mantel with my other trophies; love resists being treated like a possession. But if I enhance my welcome with gratitude and let love lead the conversation while I listen attentively and respond humbly; if I allow love to come and go at will, then love is likely to visit more often and gradually teach me how to become more loving.
And since God is love, wouldn’t it be wise, in between those visits, to get to know God better? To sit with God in prayer, ponder God’s interventions as described in Scripture, work with a spiritual director on my relationship with God and with others…
Wouldn’t that be more fruitful than pretending I love my enemy before I actually can?