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Love of enemies

Gospel Reading: Mt 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples: “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? 48So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The Gospel is the sixth and last antithesis. The series of antitheses logically concludes with the precept on the love of enemies. This is the summit of righteousness, the test of a holy life, and the norm of perfection.

Jesus goes beyond the Mosaic Law, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:18). His demand to love one’s enemies and pray for one’s persecutors is indeed very radical; humanly speaking, it is difficult. But he gives a good reason why we should do so. Loving those whom we hate and praying for those who persecute us make us children of the heavenly Father.

Perfection in this context does not mean moral faultlessness, that we do not commit sin, but it consists in following what the Father does: loving those who hate us and praying for them.

If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Rom 12:21).

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