Last night, a wild wind deposited me and our 11 year old at the door of a Catholic church. Once inside, we participated in Mass and heard the words of the gospel. Christ asks so much from us; we are to love our enemies. As the young priest celebrating the Mass pointed out in his homily, our enemies include our next-door neighbor who throws garbage on our side of the property line and the terrorists who travel halfway around the world to attack our way of life.
As for my family, we have, in the past, endured lousy neighbors who did, in fact, walk to our side of a chain-link fence to deposit their garbage. And a decade ago, terrorists nearly succeeded in killing my husband during the World Trade Center attacks. In both those instances, we felt the best response was to pray – not to avenge, not to rail against our fate, but to pray. We understood we had to struggle to find a trace of God in our enemies.
This is hard. It is difficult to see one’s nemesis as a child of God, a person for whom, as the Christ tell us today and every day: “(God) causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike.”But why (can you hear the whine in my voice? ) do we have to do this? It is so difficult. We have to do this because this is the central challenge of our lives as Christians.
We have to do this because we didn’t invent ourselves and we are not the result of a random meeting of a sperm and an egg; we were called into being from nothingness.
Last night after the Eucharist, the final hymn brought that point home to me. “All People on the Earth Do Dwell” was written by Calvinist hymn compiler Louis Bourgeois during the Protestant Reformation and has its place in the Lutheran Hymnal; his hymns were sung by American pilgrims. This hymn speaks across the chasms of time and religious divisions to the universality of the Christian condition.