The Sum of All
"You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love
thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you,
Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and
pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That
you may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven."
Saint Matthew 5:43-45
our enemies ... those who hate us ... is, according to Jesus
Christ, one of the most binding obligations of a Christian.
It is even largely definitive of a Christian (or at least ought
to be). Christ bids us to do this; indeed, He commands us
to do this. In a word, it is His will for the way that we lead our
We cannot do this of ourselves apart from Actual Grace 1.
In our sinfulness we instinctively rebel against these "absurd counsels"
that fly in face of the world. Indeed, if ever there was a formula
for extinction, this is the prototype. — despite the fact that it
has endured for over 2000 years and multiplied into all continents.
a malicious inner protest arises — something very much akin to the
ancient Lex Talionis, the clamor for revenge and reparation
that has been the scourge of mankind — which demands "justice",
a penalty in measure (and if possible beyond measure) to
be exacted from the offender. We do not wish to forgive those
who hate us, who do us evil, harm. Indeed, we would visit the same
evil upon them! And greater still!
How easily our resentment is stirred when the unjust and manifestly
sinful wound us or others with apparent impunity. We lust for revenge.
Our obligation, however, as followers of Jesus Christ, is not to
exact justice. That is God's. He alone is their Judge, He alone
sees their heart — and ours. And how much is hidden from us! Christ
knows this. That is why He tells us not to judge, but to do something
in which we are far more competent: to love.
our enemies is decidedly less easy than summarily judging them,
but — unlike our judgment — it is unerring, What is more, it constrains
us from calling judgment down upon ourselves. No ... our task is
more demanding still: it calls us to love those who hate us and
do good to those who abuse us.
This love that Christ talks about is always — and often mysteriously
— redemptive. We may or may never see the consequences, but it is
precisely this, love in the face of animosity, that has won souls
for Christ a thousand times over, and it has, countless times, brought
others to repentance and sorrow.
It is not simply easy, but almost irresistible, to love those who
love and admire us, for it is a magnification of ourselves, it is
the self reflected in the love of others. To love those who hate
us, who wish us ill, on the other hand, is the abnegation of the
self — for the good of the other; in other words, it
requires a good more deal from us than the satisfaction we would
derive from any tribute, and requires absolutely nothing whatever
in the way of compensation, in return, from the other. We do not
anticipate that our love will be requited — much less the
good we do acknowledged.
is calculated. And precisely because it is calculated it is an imposter
of justice which renders to each his due. It adds, subtracts — multiplies
and divides! It measures and metes out, keeping a careful ledger
of debits and credits, and esteems its mathematics, and the product
of its equations, "justice".
is unquestionably the way of the world ... but it is not the way
hate us and do us ill.
love them and do them good.
is a very simple, if differential equation.
do no math, but still arrive at a sum — and it always exceeds what
enters into the equation ... for the sum is God.
To love others indiscriminately, to do good with no hope
of recompense ... this is of grace, not numbers; it can no more
be quantified than God, from Whom it comes. Left to our own meager
resources we cannot attain to it. It is greater than us and therefore
calls us to be greater than ourselves. It calls us, in the end,
to be the image of God — in which, not coincidentally, we
were, after all, created. In this sense it is being true to our
truest selves. It is liberating because it frees us from inherent
God — however well disguised — dwells within that person who
hates us, and because this is so, they are not only to be loved
despite their evil disposition, but they are to be seen as the occasion
of our sanctification, of our being more than ourselves, of being,
very really, sons and daughters of God. Our greatest enemies are
unwittingly our greatest blessings and surest means to God.
It does not matter that they do not know this.
do. And God does.
Boston Catholic Journal
1"Actual Grace is a supernatural help of God
which enlightens our mind and strengthens our will to do good and
to avoid evil" (The Baltimore Catechism)
It is the assistance of God in any given situation in which
we are confronted with the choice between good and evil, sin and
sanctity. God gives us Actual Grace — the cognitive ability
to distinguish between what is genuinely good and apparent
goods that are actually evil, and at the same time the strength
of will to resist the temptation of evil and to choose what
is good. The assistance of Actual Grace is given by God (many times
in a day) as needed, and ceases when the temptation passes. That
is to say, unlike Sanctifying Grace which is a sharing in the life
of God Himself, it is transient.