So far today I’ve done all right.
I haven’t gossiped, cursed, or lost my temper.
I haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or overindulgent.
I am really glad about these things.
But, in a few minutes Lord,
I am going to get out of bed,
and from then on,
I’m probably going to need a lot more help.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen. (Author unknown)
Most of us will chuckle when reading this prayer, but isn’t the message really true? One of the most difficult aspects of being a Christian is dealing with people. Especially challenging is Jesus’ command to love one another. Even more difficult is the Lord’s command not just to love those who love us back, but to love those who annoy us and to love those who (gulp!) hate us…our enemies!
If I had my choice, here’s how I would like to practice my faith. I’d take a prayer book, rosary, and my Bible and sit in church or an adoration chapel for several hours each day. I would be able to speak with the Lord, feel His presence and experience total peace. Although it’s not impossible, it is very difficult to commit sin while I’m in church. By using this approach, chances are good that I wouldn’t be sinning that much. Therefore, achieving my salvation would be a “piece of cake”. Brilliant strategy, right? The only problem is that this is not even close to what the Lord wants me to do.
Like it or not, most of our lives are spent interacting with people. We must deal with family, friends, coworkers, fellow students, store clerks, uncaring receptionists at doctor’s offices, demanding supervisors, customers who scream at us because they are not happy and individuals who absolutely don’t like us and want to make us suffer as much as possible. Do you get the picture? Some of these dealings are just not going to be pleasant. Fortunately for us, the Lord gives us some guidelines to follow:
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. (John 13:34)
That’s fine, I can handle that. How about if somebody treats me badly? What should I do then?
Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)
This is getting tough, but I think I’m still good. If someone apologizes, I have to forgive them. I guess the only exception to this “love one another” thing is when someone hates me and makes no effort to be nice.
“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. (Matthew 5:43-48)
Now, my friends, you see what being a Christian is all about…and it ain’t easy! In order to call ourselves followers of Jesus, we must love as He loved. How did He love? By forgiving those who tortured, mocked and crucified Him. To make matters worse, the reason He was on the cross in the first place was to redeem all of mankind, which included the very people who were putting Him to death. And despite the fact that they laughed at Him, beat Him, and hung Him on a cross to die, He forgave them! In the same way, Jesus expects us to do the same to those who mistreat us. While it sounds impossible, it isn’t. The only catch is that we must ask for help. We can’t be expected to accomplish this on our own. If we pray and receive the Sacraments frequently, we’ll receive the graces necessary to pull this off.
The season of Advent is all about preparing for the coming of Christ. We should be using the time to turn away from our sinful behavior so that we’re better prepared to meet Him. For the remainder of this Advent season, why not pledge to pray for and be kind to that individual who hates you? Ask the Lord to bless that person and offer thanks for having them in your life. Why? Because without that person, you wouldn’t be able to fulfill Jesus’ instructions to “love your enemy”. Loving that enemy will help you to get to Heaven one day.
Even if you don’t have any real enemies, I’m sure you can think of a really annoying and difficult person for whom to pray during Advent. That would be a great use of the next few weeks. Personally, I’m glad to be able to share this post with my Internet followers and speak about it on the radio. For, when asking everyone to pray for the most difficult and annoying person they know, I know I’m going to get some prayers directed my way!
Do something good for someone you like least today. (St. Anthony of Padua)