February 1996


The Word of Life, taken from Scripture, is offered each month as a guide and inspiration for daily living.


"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust" (Mt 5:44-45)


"Love your enemies." These are very strong words. They completely overturn our way of thinking and compel us to make a sharp turnabout in our lives. Let's face it. We all have some enemies of one kind or another.

My enemy might be my next door neighbor or that unpleasant, meddle-some lady whom I meet in the elevator and always try to avoid. My enemy is that relative who mistreated my father thirty years ago and with whom I haven't spoken since.

He could be that classmate you have ignored ever since he got you into trouble with the teacher. She could be the girlfriend who dropped you to go out with someone else. Or he could be the salesman who cheated you, without mentioning how often we look at politicians as enemies if their opinions are different from ours.

There are people today who regard the government as their enemy and therefore, willingly carry out acts of violence against those who represent it. There are also people who hate the Church and clergy.

All of these, and many, many others whom we consider enemies must be loved. "Loved?"

Yes. They must be loved! However, this is not merely a matter of changing hatred into some benign kind of feeling.

We have to do much more than that. Listen to what Jesus says:


"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be childern of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust"


As we can see, Jesus wants us to show our love by concrete actions and by praying. In another passage he also says: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Lk 6:27-29). He explains to us the reason for his words, offering us as the example of the love of God, his Father, and inviting us to do as he does, and to pattern our lives after his.

This is the point: we are not alone in the world. We have a Father, and we must become similar to him. Furthermore, he has the right to demand this of us because when we were still his enemies, when we were still living in darkness, he loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), by sending us his Son who died in such a terrible way for each one of us.


"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be childern of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust"


Jerry, a young boy from Washington, knew these words well. So even if everyone in his class disliked him because of the color of his skin he kept loving. When Christmas came, all the children exchanged gifts leaving Jerry out. Naturally, the young boy cried, but remembering the words of Jesus: "Love your enemies," with his mother's permission, he bought gifts which he distributed with love to all of his "brothers and sisters."


"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be childern of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust"


Elizabeth, a girl from Florence, was climbing the steps of a church to go to Mass when, all of a sudden, a group of youngsters her own age started to make fun of her. She would have liked to have screamed at them, but smiled instead. In church Elizabeth prayed for them. As she was leaving, they approached her and asked why she had acted that way. She explained that she was a Christian and that, therefore, she had to love in every situation. She said this with great conviction. The following Sunday she discovered that her witness had borne fruit. When she entered the church she saw those same girls sitting attentively in the first pew.

These are examples of how children take God's word seriously. For this reason they are "grown-ups" in his eyes.

Perhaps we too ought to take steps to remedy certain situations in our own lives, all the more so since we will be judged by the way we judge others. We ourselves are the ones who give God the measure by which he will measure us. In fact, we often pray, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Therefore, let us love our enemies! Only by doing this can we heal disunity, break down barriers and build the Christian community.

Is it difficult? Painful? Does the mere thought of it keep us awake at night? Take courage. It is not the end of the world after all. It takes just a little effort on our part and then God will do the remaining ninety-nine percent and we will experience a boundless joy in our hearts.


Chiara Lubich