The recent atrocity in Nice France and the ambush killings of police officers here in the U.S. reminded me of this blog post by Fr. Burke Masters, Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Joliet, IL. It’s about a challenge to love as God loves and a call to holiness by praying for our enemies and those who persecute us. The post goes so far as to suggest that we spiritually adopt a terrorist. Perhaps it could be a terrorist currently planning another attack in the very near future? Perhaps we can even make it personal by giving him (or her) a name? During my morning prayer discipline, I pray the Lord somehow reach them with the Way and the Truth and the Life; to help them see how they are living out the precise opposite—being lost, with lies and death.
We may say this is all too hard. It’s not possible for a human to love exactly as God loves or be perfect as God is perfect. There is truth to that, but if we live by this negative attitude we forget that all things are possible with God and blow off the whole idea. We then reject the challenge. We also forget that being perfect as God is perfect is written as a command, not a suggestion (see Matthew 5:48).
Challenges are good; they help us to focus and grow. Athletes need to push themselves to improve and it’s painful and uncomfortable. Students need to be challenged by their schools and instructors in order to reach higher levels of learning. We are currently writing our goals for fiscal year 2016 where I work, and the challenges presented to us by our superiors are a bit intimidating. If we are not pushed and willing to accept at least some stress, we will not advance.
It’s the same in the spiritual life. We tend to pray for the things we want and the people we like because it’s easy and comfortable. While this is not objectivity wrong, we should challenge ourselves to remain vigilant in asking God’s will and consider who needs our prayers the most, regardless of our feelings. In this way we can ensure our prayer life is not linked to our own selfishness.
Consider it like “fasting” from our favorite and most comfortable prayers to try a narrower path. I’ve heard it said that it is impossible to truly hate someone if you pray regularly for that person. Try it sometime as an act of the will. Of course, we should pray for all the victims of terrorism also, but this is not very challenging to do. Prayer for the killers is uncomfortable, but being comfortable is not what Jesus promised us and is not the purpose of our life.
“Our salvation will come in the measure that we love our worst enemy.”
—unknown spiritual writer