DT 26: 16-19
PS 119: 1-2, 4-5, 7-8
2 COR 6:2B
The familiar words of Jesus’s command to “love your enemies” has a renewed sense of meaning for me given who our country seems so ready to label as our enemy. Fifteen years ago I met a Bosnian woman in Baton Rouge when I was a freshman in high school. I helped out at the Catholic Life Center as an English tutor, and I remember what a joy it was to work with her. She had a compassionate smile and joyous gratitude when we met to practice English. She hoped to sharpen her language skills so that she might be able to work as a physician in our country, the work she did before being forcibly displaced. Looking back, she was probably the first refugee and first Muslim I had ever met. I never thought much about those distinctions, but several voices today would have me only see these things, and so treat her as an outsider, a stranger, and perhaps even the enemy. It is hard to imagine that she is my enemy, but perhaps if I had not spent time working with her and hearing her story, I would have fallen prey to such an ignorant assessment.
I recall this personal encounter in light of Jesus’s invitation to love those we might too quickly call our enemies. The love Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel goes beyond our culture and our comfort. It calls us out of conventional assessments and speaks to a personal conversion through care and intentionality. It is easy to love our friends and those we think we already like and are like, but Jesus wonders, “What is unusual about that?” Let us love those who, in our brokenness, we might rather avoid or look over. Let us seek to be with people that others might call our enemy, listen to their stories, and love them. Be unusual, Jesus says, for in this labor of love, we find the unique nature of Christian identity.
Perhaps a key to doing this is to look beyond the distinctions we think separate us. We should seek first to keep Christ’s law of love at the center of our lives. During this Lenten season, how might I live out this unusual love that witnesses to Christ? Who might I think is my enemy and how might I love them as Christ has loved me?
Michael Mohr, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic studying in the College of Philosophy and Letters.