Is this the hardest teaching of Jesus?

Where_is_the_love

It just might be.

Given some of what I’m reading around the interwebs these days, an alarming number of us Catholics seem temperamentally incapable of practicing Christ’s great commandment, to love the enemy (or even just someone with whom I have sharp ideological or theological disagreements).

So this piece from  Notre Dame’s Timothy O’Malley really struck a chord:

To love thy enemy is not to accept a benign and beige tolerance where serious disagreement is passed over. But it is to remember that the one with whom I disagree will one day participate with me, God willing, in the discourse of praise within the city of God. In the meantime, it may be my vocation as theologian and columnist, as blogger and bishop, as ordained and baptized Catholic living out Christian existence in the world, to argue for or against certain proposals. But at least according to the rules of order of God’s reign, I am obliged to see this interlocutor as neighbor, as fellow-pilgrim seeking to see God face to face.

To be honest, this is a hard teaching. It is far more satisfying to imagine a world of potential enemies, all of whom are conspiring against me. There is a disordered delight in despising or dismissing my interlocutor. Jesus himself became a victim of this human desire to see the other as enemy, as one whose voice must be eliminated. But in continuing to create enemies out of our fellow Christians, we renew the cycle of violence that Jesus came to defeat in his cross and resurrection. We ignore the law of the kingdom that he gave to us on the night before he died: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all … will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). It’s hard to love human beings in a similar way that Jesus did, yet when did Jesus tell anyone that citizenship in the reign of God would be a breeze?

Read it all. 

And check out what Deacon Nick Donnelly has to say on the subject of Catholic anger:

In the rage I see expressed in some Catholic blogs, there is not a spontaneous or passing passion. Instead, given the constant expressions of anger and hate, the activity of the deadly sin of wrath must be considered. The seven deadly, or capital, sins are vices that impair conscience, corrupt judgement and entrap the person in a vicious cycle of sin. Wrath, like lust or envy, is rightly called deadly because it eats a person up so that rage comes to dominate his or her response to life. How can we tell the difference between rightful anger and deadly rage? Apart from duration, there is a spitefulness and vindictiveness in wrath, as if the person takes gleeful delight in expressing anger. The antidote to wrath is the virtue of mercy and forgiveness, which should not be confused with laxity or indifference in the face of sin and betrayal of the faith.

This seems like a good time to revisit this reflection from two years ago.   

I keep remembering a great old hymn: “Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found…” 

Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found;

Brought here together by Christ’s love, by love are we thus bound.

With grateful joy and holy fear His charity we learn;

Let us with heart and mind and soul now love him in return.

Forgive we now each other’s faults as we our faults confess;

And let us love each other well in Christian holiness.

Let strife among us be unknown, let all contention cease;

Be His the glory that we seek, be ours His holy peace.

Let us recall that in our midst dwells God’s begotten Son;

As members of His body joined, we are in Him made one.

No race or creed can love exclude, if honored be God’s name;

Our family embraces all whose Father is the same.

A lovely choral version of the hymn is below.

Photo: Wikipedia


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