Catholic homily for Saturday of the 1st Week of Lent
Theme: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Saturday February 27 2021
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, 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. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
There are Ten Commandments of God. But Jesus sums them up into one commandment: love. Love of God and love of neighbor. In fact, love of God is manifested and proven by love of neighbor. The Apostle John is clear on this: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn 4:20).
Love of neighbor, in fact, is a command coming from Jesus: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”. (Jn 13-34). This is a very difficult commandment to follow because not all people are easy to love. Not all people are good to us. So, Jesus goes further. He insists that we love everybody, even our enemies: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
In the mind of so many people, this teaching is unrealistic and unreasonable, and may even be perceived as a sign of weakness. Yet there is profound truth in this teaching. Hating one’s enemies will just perpetuate the animosity and conflicts. Love is the key to reconciliation and peace. St. John of the Cross gives a great piece of advice: ʺWhere there is no love, put love – and you will draw out love.ʺ
No matter how difficult and even unreasonable this teaching may be according to our standards, still we have to love our enemies. In the first place, it is a command of Jesus and so we have to follow. He Himself showed this all throughout His life which is capped by His total self-offering on the cross: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). When we follow this command, we become His true disciples: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35-35).
Secondly, in loving our neighbor including our enemies we show that our love is inclusive and does not discriminate. Hence, we will be known, not only as disciples of Jesus, but also as children of our 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.”
Finally, we become instruments of peace and unity among people. And according to His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus assures us of eternal reward: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).
It is important to note that He is not telling us to be ‘in love’ with those who harm us. That is what is truly unreasonable. Nor do we need to like them or to make friends with them. We can love them even if they are not our friends.
After all, there are different manifestations of love. For our parents and superiors, love is expressed in respect and obedience. For husband and wife, love is total self-giving and fidelity. For our subordinates, love is expressed in justice and fairness. And for our enemies, love is expressed in forgiveness and understanding.
If we really want our enemies to reform and become better persons, the most effective power is love. And the most powerful tool in our love of enemies is prayer. Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.” On the cross, He prayed for them: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).
St. Augustine has this to say: “That your enemies have been created is God’s doing; that they hate you and wish to ruin you is their own doing. What should you say about them in your mind? ‘Lord, be merciful to them, forgive them their sins, put the fear of God , change them.’ You are loving in them not what they are, but what you would have them become by your prayers.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches