In the Gospel, from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us how we are to respond when people are violent toward us. He tells us to not respond to an act of violence with further violence. At the same time, we are not to be passive in the face of violence Rather, we counter violence with active nonviolent action. We do not fight fire with fire. We fight fire with water. We fight violence in order to stop the cycle of violence.
It is in this context that Jesus says: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Often penitents in Confession share how they are struggling to forgive others who have treated them poorly, and not retaliate in kind. It is often family members (especially in-laws!) or coworkers. Does one just passively accept the bad behavior or respond in some way?
One of the things I recommend as penance is to sincerely pray for the well-being of the other person. It is hard to harbor ill feelings for someone for whom we pray regularly. Of course, we don’t stop with praying. Prayers naturally touch our hearts and minds to discover ways to reach out to others in love.
At the center of the Sermon on the Mount, and most of Jesus’ teaching, is that we are to be proactive in living our faith. We do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
With this in mind, who in my life is someone who has treated me poorly, and whom I need to pray for and love?
– Fr. Ron