*This reflection by St. Vincent de Paul’s Executive Director Michael Vanderburgh was originally published on The Catholic Telegraph website.*
March 4: Saturday of the First Week of Lent
Readings: Dt 26:16-19, Mt 5:43-48
Invitation to Prayer: “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day for salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2b)
Reflection: So often what Jesus tells us is simple to say but difficult to do. To love your enemies is to want and do good things for people who harm you and others you love. Love my enemies? What stands in my way? I do. My desire to reward myself, my family, and my friends in a way that excludes others undeserving. My pride in goodness and spite for others who embrace evils and succumb to weaknesses that hurt others. Yet “he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” What good comes from loving enemies?
I see this play out in our St. Vincent de Paul Society homeless shelters in Dayton every day. Many people in shelter you and I can easily relate to – hard times, bad choices, and insufficient deep relationships to make it on their own right now. Others, though. Wow. Clearly they see me as their enemy, and they’re the most difficult to love, even from a distance! Sometimes they come around, and it’s not because I’ve kept my distance or withheld myself from them. Am I willing to shine my light on the bad and the good? Am I willing to shower my love on the unjust as well as the just? Am I willing even when they don’t come around?
Lent is a great time to re-examine how my love can grow through suffering – my own and loving through the sufferings of my family, friends, neighbors – and enemies.
Prayer: Almighty Father, during this season of Lent, help me love my enemies. Help me experience your love, radiate its light, and wash away judgment and condemnation in what I think, say, and do. Amen.
Closing: Consider the crosses you are called to take up on behalf of your enemies, and look for what God is teaching you about his love through their lives and actions.
Michael Vanderburgh is executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Society in Dayton and a member of the Archdiocese Child Protection Review Board.