February 19, 2017
If you were one of the Jews in the crowds who heard Jesus the first time, “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you,” what would you think? The Romans occupied your country, and crucified your Jewish people day in and day out, should you love them? No way! You had been taught before: “If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” Exodus 21: 23-24). This law became part and parcel of the ethic of the Old Testament.
Jesus really set a high standard for his hearers as he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5: 48). He did not only teach his followers but his example on the cross spoke louder, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23: 34). Since then millions of Christians have done the same. Check out what St. Stephen said when he was stoned, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7: 60). Here is an account of St. Paul Miki, a Japanese Martyr (1564-1597): “When the crosses were set up it was a wonderful thing to see the constancy of all of them. Our brother Paul Miki, seeing himself raised to the most honorable position that he had ever occupied, openly proclaimed that he was a Japanese and a member of the Society of Jesus. And that he was being put to death for having preached the gospel. He gave thanks to God for such a precious favor.”
“He then added these words: “Having arrived at this moment of my existence, I believe that no one of you thinks I want to hide the truth. That is why I declare to you that there is no other way of salvation than the one followed by Christians. Since this way teaches me to forgive my enemies and all who have offended me, I willingly forgive the king and all those who have desired my death. And I pray that they will obtain the desire of Christian baptism. Do I try to convince you that the Muslims in Quebec should love the guy who shot their members when they were praying? Or, does the family of the 3 victims in Calgary need to love Douglas Garland? No, not really. To love your enemies does not mean that you have to throw your arms around them whenever you find them in your presence. It does not mean that you may not use legal means to get back what has been unjustly taken from you. Rather, it means you are not to use vicious, violent methods to get even, or to get revenge. There is no more eye for eye and tooth for tooth, and no more tit for tat, but to turn another cheek! It means that much of what you consider the work of an enemy is imagination, or that a little thoughtlessness is blown up into a big insult. Further, even when you are positively sure of an evil intention you must love and forgive, because “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19: 2)