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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? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The commandment to love one’s neighbor is a quotation from Lv 19:18, but the remainder of the verse – “and hate your enemy” – is not from Scriptures. It probably came from an oral commentary inferred from the distinction between the Israelites/Jews and the pagans. To “hate” here means to “love less” or not to put on equal footing, as in the expression, “I loved Jacob but hated Esau” (Rom 9:13).

Against the popular Jewish understanding of love limited to a fellow Jew/Israelite, Jesus extends the love-commandment to one’s “enemies,” i.e., outsiders. The sole motive is, “that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (v 45). God may be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but he is also the God and Father of all peoples.

His choice of Israel is not an end to itself, but that through Israel, his blessing may go to the Gentiles as well.

Proof of his care for everyone is the working of nature: the sun shines and the rain falls on people without distinction. To be “perfect” like the heavenly Father is to love the way the Father loves – all embracing, without discrimination.

It is humanly impossible to love everybody with the same intensity and attention. But love must be inclusive, not exclusive. Have you “un-friended” someone lately? How?

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.