It is a myth to think that living the Christian life is going to be easy! One has only to read today’s Gospel to see that this is not the case. Jesus clearly places before us a call to go above and beyond what is the easy response to conflict situations in our lives. It is not enough just to ignore our enemy and not get into a fight wit him or her – we have to love our enemy! This is all too much and it is probably one of the reasons why Jesus found that many people did not want to follow His teachings.

As Christians we are called to a distinctive way of life that involves wholeheartedly embracing all that Jesus teaches. We cannot ‘pick and choose’ the parts of His teaching that we like and discard those that might be a little difficult. It is all or nothing when it comes to fait in Jesus Christ.

However difficult His teachings may be, on deeper reflection I think that it is possible to see the wisdom in them all. Let us take the example of loving our enemies. There are many places around the world where there is violence that has become institutionalized or even made a part of the culture of an ethnic people. Look at the protestant and Catholics in Northern Ireland, the Muslim, Orthodox and Catholics in Bosnia Herzegovina and so on. The violence in these places has been going on for centuries. How is it going to end? The only way that it will end is for the combatants to break the cycle of violence, forgive one another for all of the atrocities committed over the years and ten to choose to love one another and work with one another to build a better world.

Until the cycle of hatred is broken, first through embracing the cross of Christ’s forgiveness and then through choosing to love instead of hate, there will be no change in the hearts of the people involved. It is obvious that Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel – to love one’s enemies – is the only way to a good resolution of the conflict.

What is my first response to the sins that others commit against me? How do I choose to respond to their sins in the light of the Gospel teaching me to love even my enemies?

Lord Jesus, you forgave your persecutors and those who crucified you as you hung on the cross. Let me have the grace to remember this when I have to choose to respond to those who sin against me.