Jesus commands men to love even their enemies so they might strive to be perfect like the Heavenly Father. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by building the Virtue of Charity and rely on the Church to discern issues of justice and by growing in the Virtue of Fortitude so he can persist in love for those who hate and attack him.
1st Week of Lent – Saturday – Mt 5:43-48
After commanding men to be merciful (turn the other cheek, go the extra mile) when faced with evil injustice in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls His disciples to a revolutionary kind of love for Israel’s “neighbors” (other Jews), but even extends to enemies, including Gentiles. Jesus’ call to love enemies was completely countercultural in the ancient Middle East and remains so today in a modern world plagued by divisive ideologies and long simmering hatreds.
Rather than the Old Covenant law that directed men to love their neighbor and hate their enemies, Jesus commands His disciples to love everyone. His edict of love has no exceptions, including Gentiles and the universally hated tax collectors. Instead of being simply passive when attacked, Jesus radically commands His men to actively pray for those who persecute them.
Jesus offers a compelling rationale for why men should take up His call to revolutionary love: God the Father loves all men (sending sun and rain to all) and so those who aspire to be sons of the Father must love like the Father does; disciples are called to heroic virtue, to be more holy than others who only love their own kind (Gentiles, tax collectors), by loving even a man’s enemies. Rather than a compromising and slothful mediocrity when it comes to love, Jesus calls His men to strive to be perfect like the Heavenly Father, who is Divine Perfection.
Be awed by Jesus Christ
Be challenged by Jesus’ call to the perfection of love: with Authority as the Divine King, Jesus commands His followers to a radically new standard of unconditional love that perfects the thousand-year-old rules given by the great Prophet Moses, and overturns most men’s standards for “justice” today; in place of suspicion, division and hateful acts, Jesus, the perfection of Peace and Joy, commands His men to go beyond passiveness to true Fraternity (a part of Justice) and to be Cheerful and seek Peace with all people.
Rely on the Church to discern issues of justice
Realize: In opposition to the truth of Catholic teaching on social justice, some in power have sought to stay in power, by claiming to promote “social justice”, but instead promote division, dependency, and warring factions with victims and oppressors; these evil acts stigmatize true “social justice”, enslave men to be dependent on government, and turn men against offering charity to others who legitimately need help.
Believe: Reflect upon the truth about Social Justice (CCC 1928-1948).
Pray: Almighty and Most Gracious Father, help me build the Virtue of Charity so I can respect and love the dignity of every person, have great compassion for the suffering of others, even those who reject You and promote sin, and be led by You to know when and how to offer the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy for those in need.
Persist in love for those who hate and attack you
Realize: Men instinctually react with violence (physical and mental) when threatened. While some can suppress the outer acts of hatred (verbal or physical assault), fully eliminating the inner acts of hatred (judging, condemning, hating) is impossible without the grace of Jesus.
Believe: Reflect upon Concupiscence (CCC 1264, 1426, 2515) and the need for a Conversion of the Heart (CCC 821, 1430-1433, 1856, 1888, 2608-2609, 2708).
Pray: Jesus, Perfection of Fortitude, help me build the Virtue of Fortitude so I persistently seek a fuller conversion of my heart, I reject anger and hatred, I bear the pains and sorrows caused by the attacks of others, and I persevere to courageously love my tormentors in imitation of You.