Today marks 41 years since I was taken down to the river, dressed in a white robe and submerged three times: in the name if the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and reborn as a an adopted Son of God. One of the mistakes I think we Catholics have made is that we have let the biblical image of "born-again" get away from us. Our theology teaches that no matter what age you are baptized infant or adult, you are born again. We symbolize it in the white garment. Today's gospel reminds us of how difficult that new life is.
Yesterday we heard that we were to turn the other cheek. Today Jesus goes further
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father,for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
Loving our enemy doesn't mean passive acceptance. We believe that there is right and wrong, truth and lie, and we have a responsibility to fight for right, to stand up for the truth, to fight evil. The difference is that when we confront the wrong doer, when we confront the lie, we must make sure that anger, animosity, hatred do not creep into our hearts.
Remembering that God wills the salvation of all, our ultimate goal is not the destruction of our enemies, even if they were out to destroy us. Our ultimate goal is not simple vindication. Our ultimate goal and hope must be that the person see the wrong they are doing, the lie they are spreading, and experience a change of heart, metanoia, conversion. For us that is true victory.
Is it hard for us to think about the salvation of another when they are doing everything in their power to tear us down? You bet, that's why we need God's grace, to shield our hearts from animosity and hatred even as we battle for what we know to be right.