Pope Francis at Mass on Tuesday morning said the mystery of Christian life is loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors.
He drew inspiration from the day’s Gospel (Mt 5:43-48), in which Jesus invites his followers to a higher standard of human relations, so as to be “perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The Holy Father said forgiveness, prayer, and love for those who seek to destroy us is the path Jesus has laid out for us.
Forgive to be forgiven
The challenge of Christian life, he said, is asking the Lord for the grace “to bless our enemies” and to love them.
“To pray for those who want to destroy me, my enemies, so that God may bless them: This is truly difficult to understand. We can recall events of the last century, like the poor Russian Christians who, simply for being Christians, were sent to Siberia to die of cold. And they should pray for the executing government that sent them there? How can that be? Yet many did so: they prayed. We think of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Should they pray for the dictator who sought a ‘pure race’ and killed without scruple, even to pray that God should bless him? And yet many did so.”
Learn from Jesus and martyrs
Pope Francis said Jesus’ “difficult logic” is contained in his prayer for those who put him to death on the Cross.
Jesus asks God to forgive them, he said.
“There is an infinite distance between us – we who frequently refuse to forgive even small things – and what the Lord asks of us, which he has exemplified for us: To forgive those who seek to destroy us. It is often very difficult within families, for example, when spouses need to forgive one another after an argument, or when one needs to forgive their mother-in-law. It’s not easy… Rather, [we are invited] to forgive those who are killing us, who want us out of the way… Not only forgive, but even pray that God may watch over them! Even more, to love them. Only Jesus’ word can explain this.”
Perfect like the Father
Finally, Pope Francis said it is a grace “to understand this Christian mystery and be perfect like the Father, who gives good things to the good and the bad.”
“It would do us well, today, to think of our enemy – I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. The Mafia’s prayer is: ‘You’ll pay me back.’ The Christian prayer is: ‘Lord, give them your blessing, and teach me to love them.’ Let us think of one enemy, and pray for them. May the Lord to give us the grace to love them.”