This is the 13th anniversary of the appalling terrorist attacks in the United States and Our Lord’s advice in the gospel today may seem incredibly naïve and impractical: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. How can people forgive such monstrous acts of hatred and violence? Doesn’t such weakness set them up for further disasters?
Our Lord was far from naïve. His parents had to flee a paranoid despot so that he could survive infancy, and he lived and worked under brutal Roman rule. Our Lord’s advice to turn the other cheek wasn’t a prudent way of staying out of trouble; rather, it was a practical way of releasing the transforming power of God’s love into the world. That love is far more potent than the impact that levelled the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City which killed almost 3000 innocent people.
We’ve all heard about people who found the grace to forgive their child’s murderer, in some cases even bringing them to conversion. But not every story finds this kind of resolution, at least not this side of heaven. But choosing to love is always better for the victim than cowering in a prison of bitterness, rehearsing vengeful schemes.
This is why Our Lord encourages us to pray for our enemies. Now don’t get me wrong, justice must take its course. But we also need to try to understand those whose race or religion tempt us to consider them a threat to us.
Even in a religious community we can find it hard to understand, let alone love, some of the people with whom we share our daily life. Is it really possible to love everyone without exception? The sincere follower of Christ will always be the first to take the lead in restoring a broken relationship and see beyond the faults and failings of other people and discover the face of Christ looking back at us. We can do this because when God is with us he can shine his light into the darkest of places.