“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…give to everyone who asks of you, be merciful…stop judging…stop condemning…forgive.” REALLY?? This must be simply metaphorical or a suggestion – right? Jesus is on a roll in his Sermon on the Plain. He follows up what we heard last week (the ‘Blesseds and the woes’) with probably the hardest teaching yet. It is hard for us to embrace the notion of loving our enemies –not just leave them alone, not just respect them, but embrace them and love them. Our first reading gives us the clue as to why we should and must do this. David does not harm Saul (who was trying to kill David) when he finds him sleeping because Saul has been anointed by God. Jesus reminds us that everyone person – even our enemies – is a child of God. To harm even the worst of these is to harm God. To love them is to love God. Many of us do not have ‘true enemies’ – those who are out to kill us. But we can read enemies as a wide spectrum of those who think or are different than us. Those who we are uncomfortable with, shy away from, or try to avoid. These too are children of God whom we are to embrace.
As Vincentians, we are often called to embrace those who are different than us, who we might find hard to understand or embrace. In the poor, the suffering, the sick, the imprisoned, we find people living a reality we are not comfortable or familiar with. Often they are different than us and make us uncomfortable. Especially in home visits we can find ourselves going into places that make us think. But in each instance, we encounter Christ in the suffering for each person is a child of God. God teaches us to embrace them (and Him) if we open our hearts to them. Think of it this way – why wouldn’t we desire to encounter Christ as often as possible? Where ever Christ is – that is where I want to be! In a home visit; in ministering to the suffering; we encounter Christ. And in humility, we learn how to embrace and love those who are different, those who make us uncomfortable, and those who are our ‘enemies.’ Do I look to encounter Christ each time I minister to someone who is suffering? When I go on a home visit, do I view it as a visit to the home of Jesus?
Father, help me to see the presence of Christ in everyone I minister to. Let me seek to encounter Christ in each home visit in humility and compassion. Help me to set aside my judgments, my prejudices and my fears that I may offer mercy, forgiveness and my very self in help of others. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen