“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
~ Matthew 5:43-48
What does it mean to love our neighbor and to love our enemies?
Matthew Henry wrote: The Jewish teachers by "neighbor" understood only those who were of their own country, nation, and religion, whom they were pleased to look upon as their friends. The Lord Jesus teaches that we must do all the real kindness we can to all, especially to their souls. We must pray for them. While many will render good for good, we must render good for evil; and this will speak a nobler principle than most men act by. Others salute their brethren, and embrace those of their own party, and way, and opinion, but we must not so confine our respect. It is the duty of Christians to desire, and aim at, and press towards perfection in grace and holiness.
But who is really our enemy?
If you grew up in a certain time frame, as I did, the enemy was the Soviet empire. We lived under threat of nuclear war. But the world is a different place now and threats are elsewhere.
Jesus’ contemporaries were threatened and persecuted by the Romans and yet Jesus said to pray for them. Even on the cross he asked his Father to forgive them because they were unaware of what they were doing. We can believe this prayer was not just for the Romans who carried out the execution, but for the religious leaders of the day who helped to bring it about.
Jesus continues by saying we are to be perfect like the Father in heaven.
That’s a tall order. Love our enemies. Pray for those who persecute us. Be perfect.
In this time of reflection and repentance, ponder those words of Jesus and what they mean in your life. And when it seems impossible, remember that there is grace.
He knows our shortcomings. He knows our failures. Yet he calls us to be perfect knowing that we can’t do it without him.
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
~ I Thessalonians 5:24
A Prayer for Our Enemies
Jesus, Prince of Peace,
you have asked us to love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for our enemies and those who oppose us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit,
may all people learn to work together
for that justice which brings true and lasting peace.
To you be glory and honor for ever and ever.
From Catholic Online.