Tag Archives: love enemies

The welcoming mercy of God

Mercy within mercy within mercy…
Thomas Merton

Can we forget God’s mercy? Sadly, yes. Today’s lectionary readings remind us of God’s overwhelming mercy.

Moses reminds God of His mercy and the people are spared, despite their worship of the Golden Calf. (Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14)

David mourns his sins – adultery and murder of Uriah – beseeching God for mercy. (Psalm 51: 3-4, 12-13, 17, 19)

Paul recalls the mercy of God which embraces him, a blasphemer and a persecutor. (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

Jesus shares three parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the father who welcomes the lost son. (Luke 15:1-32)

But what struck me this morning was the beginning of the Gospel:

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus…

I wonder if our churches are filled with sinners and our enemies, drawing near to Jesus.

Yes, we’ll say that we all are sinners. But what about those we despise as sinners – Trump supporters, Hillary supporters, Communists, terrorists, right-wingers, left-wingers?

Are they welcome as we come together to worship?

Or, even more importantly, do we seek them out as the Good Shepherd does?

Or are our churches full of satisfied sinners?

This morning, perusing Facebook, I came across this photo of a sculpture of Timothy Schultz. It’s almost too difficult to consider – but our God is a God of mercy within mercy within mercy.

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Loving enemies and conflict

love your enemies,
pray for those who persecute you…
Matthew 5: 44

Sometimes we think that if we love we will have no enemies. But loving enemies, loving the stranger, may bring us enemies, may cause us to find ourselves opposed to those who seek to demonize the enemy, the stranger.

Love can bring us conflict, but this conflict can be healthy. As Frederick Douglas (who died on February 20, 1895), said in an 1857 speech:  As Bruce Adams wrote in “Building Healthy Communities,” commenting on Frederick Douglas,

I am not trying to abolish conflict. There is great value in healthy conflict. And the dangers of group-think are real. Conflict can inspire creative leadership. Where there are fundamental conflicts over values, they should not be ignored in a sentimental yearning for consensus. The problem in our communities today is not that we have conflict, but that we manufacture conflict and exaggerate differences to the point where it is very difficult to make meaningful change. Too often we abandon basic civility and cannot disagree without questioning the motives of our adversaries. Our standard as we debate should be similar to doctors’ Hippocratic Oath: “Do no harm.” Disagree, but don’t tear the community apart as you do.

I often find it hard to really feel good about disagreeing with someone. I sometimes prefer “peaceful coexistence,” even in the face of a serious disagreement. But real love is not afraid of conflict. In fact, real love – which includes real respect for the other – should welcome conflict and find ways to make of conflict a step to greater community.

This week I spent three days in the Gracias, Lempira, jail for a workshop on Alternatives to Violence where we tried to learn how to facilitate workshops on that theme, finding ways to deal effectively and lovingly with conflict. It was not easy and is not easy. But experiencing the workshop with five persons in jail refreshed my spirit and gives me the hope that I can truly love the enemy in the face of conflict – even the enemy within!

 

Dorothy Day and Advent Love

May the Lord make you increase and abound
in love
for one another and for all.
1 Thessalonians 3:12

Dorothy Day died thirty five years ago today, November 29, 1980.

An ardent pacifist and advocate for the poor, she was an anomaly in her day – and even now. She combined a deep love of God and a profound piety with a life of commitment to the poor and to peace.

So it is astounding that Pope Francis noted her in his address to the US Congress a few month ago:

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

Her message of radical personal and social change was clear and rooted in her faith. In June 1946 she wrote:

What we would like to do is change the world—make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of workers, of the poor, of the destitute—the rights of the worthy and unworthy poor, in other words—we can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world.
We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and dear God —please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.

In the midst of the violence and the cries for war, in the midst of poverty throughout the world and the masses of refugees fleeing war and unrest, her message of Gospel love is so needed.

So this Advent is a time to open our hearts to love and to commit ourselves to see the face of Christ in all – friend and foe – and love them in deeds and in truth.

The foolishness of love

The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.
1 Corinthians 3: 9

 What can be as crazy as loving your enemies, as Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, Matthew 5: 44?

What can be as foolhardy as praying for your persecutors – except praying that they may die before killing you?

An “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” makes sense, until you realize, with Gandhi, that taking an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.

Love your enemies.

We won’t even talk to those who hold a political position different from ours.

This is not just a problem in the polarized situation in the US. It is a problem here in the deeply polarized climate of Honduras. A friend recently told me of a base community in which two families have stopped coming – since they are in conflict largely because they supported different political parties (the Nationalists and LIBRE) in the last election.

Pray for your persecutors.

You’ve got to be kidding; they are out to kill me and take away my liberty.

But Saint Polycarp, the second century bishop of Smyrna whose feast is today, made sure that the soldiers who came to take him away had dinner. He went off to pray as they ate.

Closer to our time, one day, Dom Helder Camara, the twentieth century bishop of Recife, Brazil, opened the door of his humble dwelling to a man who was sent to assassinate him. The man demurred – “I cannot kill a man of God.”

Praying for persecutors, responding in love to them is not going to assure that we are not killed or injured. But it can make a difference in our lives and in the world.

Consider the example of Bud Welch whose daughter Julie was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. It was not easy and it took him a while but he went and visited the father of one of the bombers, Timothy McVeigh.

Bud came to realize that it would be wrong to kill McVeigh and the other bomber, for “the day that we might kill either one of them would be a day of vengeance and rage, and vengeance and rage is exactly why Julie and 167 others are dead.”

How to begin this?

Very simply, pray each day for someone with whom you are in conflict. Let God change your heart as well as theirs.

When I was a kid we prayed at the end of each Mass for the conversion of Russia. We forgot to pray for the conversion of our own country, the United States.

We forgot what Thomas Merton wrote at the end of one of his most poignant articles “The Root of War Is Fear”:

…instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed—but hate these things in yourself, not in another.

Let us pray for our own conversion and then we may be able to begin to love our enemies.

How foolish!

 

 

 

 

Loving our neighbor

In the 1990s Algeria was torn apart by the violence. Among the victims were Trappist monks, other men and women religious, and a bishop, Monseigneur Pierre Lucien Claverie, Bishop of Oran, who was killed on this day in 1996. He was the last Catholic leader killed in Algeria.

He was born in Algeria of French parents. He was very sympathetic to the cause of Algerian independence in the 1950s.

After studying and being ordained a Dominican priest in France, he decided to return to Algeria in 1967.

He directed a center for Arabic and Islamic studies which attracted Muslims and ot only Christians.

For Bishop Claverie, his love embraced all.

As he wrote shortly before his death:

“There is no life without love. There is no love without letting go every possession and giving oneself.
“That is probably what is at the basis of my religious vocation.
“I wondered why, throughout my Christian childhood when I listened to sermons on loving one’s neighbor, I had never heard anyone say the Arabs were my neighbors.
“It is my conviction that humanity can only exist in the plural. As soon as we claim to possess the truth or speak in the name of humanity we fall into totalitarianism and exclusion. No one possesses the truth; everyone seeks it.”

Today, we need to be reminded that all people are our neighbors and we are called to love them all – not with pious intentions, but with a love that seeks their good and the good of all peoples.

Today, love your neighbor – and, if you really want to be a follower of Christ, love your enemy.