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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 5, 43-48

'You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy.

But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;

so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike.

For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even the tax collectors do as much?

And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?

Do not even the gentiles do as much? You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jesus’ speech on oppositions continues. After having reminded his disciples about the common proverb of the time: “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy,” Jesus announces his Gospel: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus proposes the first commandment of love as the heart of the life of the disciple and of the Church. The short message of this Gospel passage demonstrates very well the real wisdom of life. It is certainly not to let oneself be guided by hate and revenge. Yet these sentiments and attitudes have always been present in men and women and they do not cease to reveal their strength. Unfortunately, they appear very normal. It is easy to think that it is natural to defend oneself from someone who wants to inflict evil. Yet Jesus is asking us to go down into the depths of the heart and life of men and women. He knows that evil cannot be defeated by patting it or coming to terms with it. It must be removed at its very root. Although it seems paradoxical, Jesus asks his disciples to love their enemies. He is stating something that scandalizes our current mentality. It is indeed troubling. We ask ourselves whether it is truly possible. Doesn’t this sound like an abstract and unattainable utopia? Shouldn’t we apply to this passage what the disciples said at Capernaum in response to Jesus’ statement that he was the bread of life: “This word is hard”? Although these words are troubling, Jesus himself put them into practice when from the cross, he prayed for his executioners. And how many martyrs, starting from Stephen, have lived with the same spirit! Clearly, this kind of love does not come from men and women and even less from the natural outpouring of our hearts: it comes from Heaven, from God who lets his sun rise on the good and the evil, without partiality. None of us deserves to be loved simply on our own merits which, if we have any, are truly negligible. The Lord offers his love freely, without our meriting it. Clearly the disciples should live in this horizon of love. There must be a paradoxical dimension in Christian life: the paradox of a love that comes from Heaven and transforms the Earth. Otherwise, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” Indeed we become like salt that has lost its taste and like light that has lost its splendour. Jesus proposes an audacious ideal. He says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is clearly impossible. But if we welcome his love, we are on the way to God’s perfection. In a time when the logic of opposition and the search for the enemy reign; the exhortation to love our enemies seems very troubling yet it is liberating. Seeking enemies and opponents has become a determined way of thinking from which Jesus’ words liberate us. Jesus knows well that in life we encounter difficulties in relationships which can often spiral into conflict; he knows that enmity between people can easily develop. In order to avoid these infernal chains, Jesus gives us an exhortation that no one else had ever previously uttered: “Love your enemies!” Only thus can love truly prevail. The Gospel does not negate the complexities of life, but it does reverse the notion that conflict is the only, inevitable way we can regulate our relationships. Indeed, whoever may be our enemy today may become our friend tomorrow.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord