I purely hate this line from the readings for today from Matthew 5:44. Frankly, it asks too much of my whiny, intractable self. I mean, I KNOW that I should pray for the deceased Saddam Hussein, the butcher Assad, the men in Boko Haram--which I am having a really, really hard time doing--Eric Cantor and the Tea Party, and people who cut off my marvelous self on the highway. I know it, but can I do it?
I think of myself as essentially a "nice" person-someone who likes to meet with people, evangelize over cups of coffee, and send money to help build wells in Africa. But that's not "messy charity." Money is easy. Love is not.
The way I entered into "loving" Saddam Hussein was when I saw a picture of him after his capture when he looked utterly disheveled, broken down, with a head full of lice. I know all about lice. Both my "kids" had them as late adolescents, and I cannot tell you how much time I spent combing nits out of my daughter's very thick, very long hair, and my son's curly locks. Abominable. (Don't think about the genocide of the Kurds, just don't, not right now when you are practicing being more loving.) For a moment I saw this man's vulnerability, despite his crimes, and it allowed a very small, wavering tendril of love to reach out to him.
Ok, let's try Eric Cantor, obstructionist politician who used to be Republican Majority Leader in the House. I confess to a whoop of joy and several fist pumps when he lost his position. He deserved to lose it, I said, the way he went up against President Obama at every opportunity, creating gridlock in Congress....wait, wait, stop it, my better self said.
This is the first thing I realized about the "loving my enemies" command. I don't have to FEEL the love as an emotion, as a kind of affection; all I have to do (that ALL is tough) is stop repeating the litany of his sins and let myself see him as a person--someone with the spark of the divine within, just like me. If I can build on that, then maybe I can make a stab at loving my enemies. Notice the use of the threatening word "stab." Clearly, this is going to take some work.
Fr. Robert Barron defines love as "willing the good of the other as other." We need to peel off the octopus arms of our expectations, our hopes for the person, our disappointments and hurts, and our need to have them love us back. This is a challenge. It is going to require some serious prayer on my knees at my prie dieu.
It's just not easy being a Christian adult. Probably learning gymnastics at the ripe age of 68 and balancing on the high beam would be easier for me than loving people I find totally unworthy of my love. Whoops, there I go again. I don't get to judge them. That's not my job. Just--hold them in a compassionate space for as long as I can bear it. Imagine them looking in the mirror and being shocked at how life has changed them and let them down. Remember they have souls too.
After two cups of strong espresso and some dark chocolate, I think I might be able to manage this. Of course, after ingesting these goodies I will be so jacked that kneeling in prayer on my prie dieu will be nearly impossible. But I'm going to try. That is all God asks of me. Maybe I'll practice on Ayn Rand next.