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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Saturday, March 7

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.
—Matthew 5: 43-44

It was only a couple years ago. I’ll never forget sitting at home in disbelief as I watched the horrific events unfold at Virginia Tech. Less than two hours away from us, I knew there would be many connections in our parish.

Immediately, I began to think of all the students from our community who were there, the alumni, and people who taught through in the university system. Our parish would need to respond and reach out to those in need. The grief would be immense, and I knew we had to do something to mark the occasion liturgically, to claim its sacredness, and to proclaim hope in the midst of great darkness.

We made preparations for our service of prayer and remembrance, and as we prepared, we discussed placing votives on our altar for each of the people who had died. It didn’t take long for the Altar Guild to ask an important question: how many candles?  Would it include the young man whose life had turned so dark that he had turned to violence?

There were differing opinions, of course. Our emotions ran deep and our sadness was so great that it was difficult for some to fathom remembering this young man who had brought so much pain. But one of the older members of the Altar Guild, in her own sacred way, simply said, “If he were my son, I would hope the Church would pray for him too.” 

It’s easy to make enemies. It’s easy to find and cast blame. It can be difficult, almost impossible, to pray for some of our enemies. But Jesus insists that we must. He gives no exception, no out for those who seek an easier prayer life. Jesus reminds us that we, the ones called to be his people, must remember all when we bow our heads.   

Loving your enemies is not something you can just will yourself to do. The only way to love your enemy authentically is to give your enemy to God, to stop controlling the relationship, and to allow God to live and move among you so that compassion and understanding may come as a gift. Reconciliation may never emerge but hope can. When we turn our enemies over to God, we allow God to move among us and to bring a sense of hope and freedom.

Loving God of all people, store in my heart the words of that wise women, that every one of us is someone’s child, and accepting that truth help me hold all enmity up to your grace.