Pope John Paul II with his would-be assassin
THE measure of love is not how we treat our friends, but our enemies.
THE WAY OF FEAR
As I wrote in The Great Scattering, the enemies of the Church are growing, their torches lit with flickering and twisted words as they begin their march into the Garden of Gethsemane. The temptation is to run—to avoid conflict, to shy away from speaking the truth, to even hide our Christian identity.
And they all left him and fled… (Mark 14:50)
Yes, it is much easier to hide behind the trees of tolerance or the leaves of complacency. Or lose the faith altogether.
A young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked. (v.52)
Still others will follow at a distance—until pressed.
At that he began to curse and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately a cock crowed… (Matt 26:74)
THE WAY OF LOVE
Jesus shows us another way. With His betrayal, He begins to overwhelm His enemies with love.
He expresses his sadness rather than a rebuke as Judas kisses His cheek.
Jesus heals the ear cut off from the high priest’s guard—one of the very soldiers sent to arrest Him.
Jesus turns the other cheek as the high priests slap and spit upon Him.
He is not defensive before Pilate, but condescends to his authority.
Jesus begs Mercy upon his executioners, "Father, forgive them…"
While bearing the very sins of the criminal crucified next to Him, Jesus promises the good thief Paradise.
Directing the entire proceedings of the crucifixion is a centurion. Upon seeing the responses of Jesus toward all his enemies, he exclaims, "Truly this man was the Son of God."
Jesus overwhelmed him with love.
This is how the Church will shine. It won’t be with pamphlets, books, and clever programs. It will be, rather, with the holiness of love.
Holy people alone can renew humanity. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Vatican City, Aug. 27, 2004
THE HOUR OF GLORY
As the rhetoric increases, we must overwhelm our enemies with patience. As the hatred sharpens, we must overwhelm our persecutors with gentleness. As the judgments and falsehoods mount, we must overwhelm our detractors with forgiveness. And as violence and cruelty spill upon our soil, we must overwhelm our prosecutors with mercy.
So we should begin this very moment overwhelming our wives, husbands, children, and acquaintances. For how can we love our enemies if we do not forgive our friends?
Whoever claims to abide in Jesus ought to live just as he lived… love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (1 John 2:6, Luke 6:27-28)
Mercy is the garment of light which the Lord has given to us in Baptism. We must not allow this light to be extinguished; on the contrary, it must grow within us every day and thus bring to the world God’s glad tidings. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Easter Homily, April 15th, 2007