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    Question 79. Since September 11, I have struggled to understand our Lordís challenge to love our enemies.  I know He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and (through the parable of the Good Samaritan) explained that all men are our neighbors.  But am I to love my enemy as myself?  Can I not rejoice in the just triumph over a nihilistic cult of death as terrorists are captured or even killed, so long as I fervently hope that their souls (and all souls!) ascend to Heaven, perhaps by way of Purgatory, satisfying both Godís infinite justice and His infinite mercy? - JBK - Rancho Cucamonga, CA

    Answer. The love of all the brethren is a proof of our love of God. The First Commandment according to our Lord was: "You shall love the Lord your God..." And the Second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." "There is no other commandment greater than these' (Mk 12:29-31). And St. John teaches: "If any one says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 Jn 4:20).

    In general, every one is bound out of love of God to love all creatures who are capable of receiving grace and enjoying eternal happiness. The term "Neighbor" includes our fellowman, even those who are sinners and our enemies. To love sinners does not mean to desire what they want or to rejoice in what brings them joy, for they desire the pleasures of sin and rejoice in them. We love the sinner in terms of his capacity for loving God, and we desire him to become a friend of God. This means that we must hate the sin by which he separates himself from the love of God. Every truly Christian love of sinners must include a hatred for his sin.

    Our Lord commanded: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mt. 5:44-45). Enemies are those who hate, offend or injure us, and also those whom we think do these things. An enemy either is evil or is regarded as such. Now we are not required to love anyone precisely because he is our enemy, for this would be a perverse love of another's wickedness. Rather we are commanded to love our enemies precisely because they are God's children through charity. 

    Charity must be expressed in action. Therefore, enemies may not be excluded from the common signs of friendship which we show to all men. It would be contrary to charity to exclude an enemy from the prayers we offer for all men generally. We must always be prepared to assist an enemy who is in extreme necessity, although we are not bound to show him special favors or signs of friendship outside of the special case of necessity. Freely to seek out one's enemy and to offer him special signs of friendship when he has no extreme need for them is a sign of the perfection of charity whereby we wish to overcome evil by good.

    Enmity, hatred, desire for revenge are mortal sins. The following acts are not to be confused with such sins: natural aversion for another, indignation at or dislike for the wicked or harmful conduct or quality of another. We may wish our neighbor evil, even death itself, if we do so for his own good or some other equally great advantage, e.g., in the case of terrorists, to prevent innocent lives from being taken.

    That said, the Way of Jesus, the Word Incarnate, is the Way for us in a troubled world, lest we put out the light of life altogether. It takes courage, the courage to suffer, to love, and to forgive, even as we refuse to cooperate with evil and seek the conversion of the heart of the enemy.




Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved