But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:44, 46, 47-48)
One of the most disconcerting instructions given to us by Jesus is to love our enemies. It is difficult just to begin to understand this command because the words “enemies” and “love” are terms which need unpacking. Let us begin with “love”.
When we think of love we may immediately think of the emotion of love or of someone that we love and so we cannot envision loving our enemies in this way. However, love in its spiritual context means “to will the good of another.” To love someone does not mean simply to feel good about another person or to “wish” another person well. To will someone’s good means that we are willing to actually do something for that person’s welfare. Because we are Christians, the good we want for everyone is heaven; therefore it is not so far-fetched for us to love an enemy, since as Christians we are already working for everyone’s eternal salvation.
Further, Jesus told us to love our enemies. He did not tell us to become friends with our enemies (or they would no longer be enemies). Jesus does not require us to trust our enemies, that is, to trust those who are untrustworthy; nor does He ask us to align with those who would have us compromise our belief. This is important because an enemy is someone who is not only hostile to your plans but to God’s plans too, so that befriending an enemy is perilous to you and to the Church. Jesus told us “to pray for” our enemies; prayer is the very first thing we should do if we are ever to begin willing their good. Further, we are asked to “turn the other cheek” not as a sign of friendship with a person of evil intent, but as a witness to God’s goodness.
For this 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our bulletin cover a work by the Venetian master Jacopo Bassano entitled The Good Samaritan (1563). Bassano’s career began with the use of bright colors in imitation of Titian but he turned to Mannerism through his observation of the likes of Raphael and Tintoretto. Bassano also moved away from the classical backdrops of his Renaissance contemporaries to deep, dark landscapes with an ambiance of twilight or the impending storm. This is one significant way that his depiction of the Parable of the Good Samaritan differed from, say, that of Rembrandt.
In our image, we see the Samaritan hoisting the injured man onto his horse. In the forefront is the flask from which he poured the wine over the poor man’s wounds. We see the head and right leg of the man already bandaged by the Samaritan. In the middle-left of the scene are the priest and a Levite who walk past their fellow Jew without providing care. It was the Samaritan, accounted an enemy or non-friend of Jews, who acted to save the beaten man. Thus, Bassano’s foreboding sky foretells a time when the follower of Christ would serve all mankind, even his enemies.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services