In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

In this morning’s Gospel reading, we hear these words from the mouth of the Lord – “love your enemies…as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (vv 35, 31). A few verses before this reading, in the same section of teaching, our Lord similarly says – “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who use you” (Luke 6:27-28).

The thing that separates us from the world, according to the words of Christ (John 13:35), is love. “By this will you be known…love…” Nowhere else will you find this teaching, to love your enemies. [Caveat – I have actually seen it mentioned by the current Dali Lama, but in an entirely different context and with an entirely different goal – he says forgive your enemies because it makes you happy, it’s better for you to forgive than to harbor resentment] We would be quick to point out that it’s not simply a teaching or a moral dictate or a selfish endeavor, love is the way of life of the Christian, so love of everyone – even enemies – flows naturally from that. St. Silouan the Athonite says that since the Kingdom of God lies within us, we have no enemies because there is neither friend nor foe in Christ, all are loved as one.

Today, when we hear these words, we can have these theological thoughts and understand what is meant and why, but it’s much harder for us to actually put these words into actions, especially this notion of loving our enemies. Firstly, many of us simply don’t think that we have any enemies. We aren’t at war with anyone, there aren’t any family feuds going on, there’s nothing that would obviously point to a particular person and have us label them “enemy.” And secondly, when we do identify someone as “enemy,” somehow we have a dis-connect between Christ’s words and our actions. We can feel Christian and justified, while hating our enemy. So I’d like us to consider these two points more in depth for a few moments.

Who are our enemies?
Obviously, if we’re in some type of argument or direct conflict with someone, we can identify them as our enemy. Less obviously, the Father’s tell us that when someone has hurt us or wronged us or offended us in some way, we typically react to them as we would to an enemy, and the Father’s call this ‘remembrance of wrongs.’ For most of us, loving our enemies takes us directly into overcoming our remembrance of wrongs. This phrase – remembrance of wrongs – essentially means that we remember the hurtful things people have done to us, and these remembrances continue to cause us distress [we still feel passion, we still sin in remembering] and continue to interfere with our lives and our relationships (especially with the person we’re holding a grudge against). Our remembrance of the wrongs of others makes them to be our enemy, in our minds at least. These are the enemies that most of us face, and are called to love.

St. John Climacus dedicates an entire step (#9) in The Ladder of Divine Ascent to this issue. Of this sin, St. John writes – “[it is] the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer, cessation of supplication, estrangement of love, a nail stuck in the soul, pleasure-less feeling cherished in the sweetness of bitterness, continuous sin, unsleeping transgression, hourly malice” (9:12). As you can clearly hear, remembrance of wrongs harms us, destroys our soul – the enemy often doesn’t even know that we’re upset – we hang on to our remembrance and we destroy ourselves.

St. Silouan phrases it a slightly different way – the enemy are those people we reject for whatever reason [that helps us open a whole new level of thinking about who we hold as enemies, we reject people for all kinds of reasons all the time…] – but remembering the earlier quote, none are rejected by Christ, all are loved. St. Silouan even reminds us here that the flames of hell are the love of God to those who continue to reject Him; God is “everywhere present and filling all things.” So our Lord calls us to love our enemies, in other words, to have no enemies, to be at peace with everyone, to reject no one.

So what do we do with this?
Firstly, we take a personal inventory – remembering all of the various things that place us at enmity with people, we analyze our lives and we force ourselves (with God’s grace) to admit the people that we have set up in our lives/minds as our enemies.

Secondly, if there’s anything we can do to remedy particular situations, we do that. We offer apologies, we ask forgiveness, we forgive others – we do what we can to truly be at peace with those people that until now we’ve viewed as our enemies.

And finally, we pray. We pray to see ourselves as God sees us (once we see clearly our own faults, we’re much less likely to judge others), and we pray daily for our enemies, that God bless them and that His will be done in their lives. The Fathers tell us that it’s very hard to continue to hold bad feelings for someone if we’re praying for them sincerely every day.

AND moving forward, we must remain diligent so that we don’t continue to set people up as our enemies – don’t reject people, don’t judge people, forgive, apologize, do those things that keeps our relationships filled with the primary characteristic of the Christian – LOVE.

We’ll end with a final quote from St. John Climacus, giving us a glimpse of how completely God can heal us from the remembrance of wrongs, what total health looks like: “You will know that you have completely freed yourself of this rot, not when you pray for the person who has offended you, nor when you exchange presents with him, nor when you invite him to your table, but only when, on hearing that he has fallen into spiritual or bodily misfortune, you suffer and weep for him as for yourself” [9:12].

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!