September 21, 2015

To Do Good to Those who Hate Us

Christ Crucified is not embarrassed by our plight or disgusted by our failures when we find ourselves defenseless before those who despise us and what we believe as Christians. He is grieved by the numerous injustices that we suffer more than we can ever grieve for ourselves. He never allows those who despise us to have the final word. Just the opposite. He stands with us, unvanquished.  In standing with us through it all, He implicates those who hate our faith in His definitive victory of good over evil, giving us even greater reason for the hope we have inside.

There is an exquisite grace that the Lord yearns to grant, but He cannot as long as we close ourselves off to Him. He needs our trust for Him to accomplish His Will in us. He needs our vulnerability and our openness before the wonder of His presence. Yet, we cannot be open to wonder and we cannot find confidence in Him as long as we are more focused on ourselves than we are on Him.

When it comes to helping us see just how little we are really open to God, an enemy is like an angel from Heaven. It is true that such a person, especially when friend or family, knows what buttons to press. At the most inopportune time we find ourselves pushed to the brink. If you find yourself at just such a place, it is time to thank God. At brink of human existence, we open to God and God opens to us.

The brink is not a place of mere emotional insecurity but instead an intensely spiritual place of surrender. The harsh judgments to which the scorn or indifference of others incline us are only so many symptoms that our way of life remains out of harmony with the deeper truth written into the substance of our humanity.By faith, we do right to resist the impulse to retaliate and to submit these grievances to the Holy Spirit. Yet the more we love and try to serve those who hate us, the more we discover that deeper and more fundamental lack of confidence in God and His will for us. This interior state of affairs is known only through great suffering, but this knowledge provides the surest ground for the hope we have inside.

Whenever our enemy helps us repent of our distrust of God, the Risen One cuts new and unexpected facets of patience and gentleness in the soul.  It is a painful grace.  Cold stone is rendered into living flesh and the greatness of our Christian faith raises everything and everyone onto unfamiliar heights.
He Himself is the resounding Word that the Father subtly whispers into the depths of our broken existence, making all things new even as all our noble intentions and resolutions come tumbling down all around us. In such moments, He humbly waits for our invitation, and we know that He will not resist the humble contrite cry of love.

This solidarity of human suffering and divine love in such prayer converges on the Mystery of the Cross. When we follow in the footsteps of our crucified Master by such prayer, the scorn of an adversary or the betrayal by a friend can only lead us all the more to this supreme moment.  When we fix our gaze on the One who gazes on us with love, even as the urge to lash out swells, we find the freedom not to render evil for evil, but to do good to those who hate us.