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Learn to Love – Br. Luke Ditewig

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Br. Luke DitewigMatthew 5:43-48

St. Benedict described the monastery as a school of love. So is the Church. We are children following our teacher Jesus as we learn to love. Today we hear again one of the hardest instructions: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Not simply tolerate or have patience. Welcome fully, without restriction. Love unconditionally.

Yet these are people who intend us harm, who hurt us or at the very least get under our skin. We resent, accuse, and fight our enemies, trading hurt for hurt, barricading in bitterness. How in the world can we love them?

Pray, Jesus says. Come to God upholding them. As we Brothers say in our Rule of Life:

“In intercession we shall discover the power to love those we find difficult. Father Benson [the founder of SSJE] taught that ‘in praying for others we learn really and truly to love them. As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal Love, and as we go into the being of him who is eternal Love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us there.’”

We learn to love.

Who is your enemy? Who is difficult for you? Perhaps someone close by, in our own family or work or church community. Perhaps someone far away or distant. Perhaps someone we hear about in the news.

Try praying for them. Go to God on their behalf remembering them as fellow humans, as people. Pray as a child of God for these other children of God.

Trust the teacher and practice praying, for through this we learn to love everyone.

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14 Comments

  1. John Gishe on March 24, 2016 at 15:52

    What a wonderful Rule on forgiveness!! “As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal Love, and as we go into the being of him who is eternal Love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us there.”

  2. susan zimmerman on March 23, 2016 at 16:28

    …our enemies are what Jesus said, “…they know not what they are doing…” for the most part this has been my experience, juxtaposed to my enemies.

    … I agree w/Luke Ditewig re prayer. When I shared with my father that Episcopalians try to walk the via media he replied with a laugh “,,,you mean they dont believe anything…”? With Dad you were either on the left or the right. At age 65, I have found that walking the via media is a place of ‘great’ prayer. For those who know not what they are doing there is concern, which for me is constant prayer.

  3. Stan on March 22, 2016 at 20:06

    One of the hardest things that I have ever done was pray to be able to find forgiveness for the two who held me up at gunpoint while I was walking to the transit rail to get to work. I realize that this is not the same as praying for them, but I needed to pray for myself first. I can’t say that I was completely successful with my first attempt, but I was eventually able to offer my forgiveness, and actually mean it. This removed a huge weight from my spirit, and healed me to where I could finally turn around and pray for them.

    For most other “enemies” who are not a danger to society, I have come to understand that people are only human, and we’re all different. We each can only be ourself. Everybody is only who they are, and it’s up to me to understand them exactly as that single individual human soul. This helps me to understand their ways and motives, and I find that their negative characteristics are generally due to their own unhappiness and often their feelings of insecurity. Once I see this, my dislike will crumble away, and often turn to pity and/or sadness. This makes it much easier for me to pray for them.

  4. elizabeth wright on March 21, 2016 at 21:42

    Hearing this message here so often, I’ve tried it – prayed for ones who otherwise render me helpless to love or forgive, understanding this is how I will come to love them – especially the hardest for me to forgive – those whose injury of me closely resembles my own of another. And after this praying, which somehow travels past my pain into caring for who they are, apart from me and my concerns, I’ve actually felt bitterness lift & received some gift of insight which allows me to instantly forgive. And this forgiveness turns out to be the only kind durable enough to take care of me too. So making a practice of praying for, loving my enemies, is how, I understand, I will also love myself. And loving myself, fully love.

  5. Liz phillips on March 21, 2016 at 13:44

    Holding both the individual and the pain I experience relating to them in Gods loving presence in prayer allows both acknowledgement of my powerlessness to force positive feelings that are not there and also acceptance of my hurt. I am heard, accepted, the situation and person offered up for healing. My anger shows my unmet need and powerlessness. It has to be absorbed and dissolved in Gods love before I can move on to a more constructive way of relating. So often the temptation is to ‘diss’ the other to another. God thorough understanding heals. Thank you for this timely reminder!!!

  6. Ruth West on March 21, 2016 at 12:06

    “Pray for those who despitefully use you…” I was told by a priest in confession that I needed to pray for the person with whom I was so angry. It was hard, but, although I was reluctant at first, it was the “magic potion” which fixed my heart. My penance was to memorize 1 Cor. 13. With prayer and scripture, God gave me grace and understanding, which I still need day by day. This homily is so significant! Thanks.

  7. The Rev. Dr. Carey E. Sloan, III, AJON on March 21, 2016 at 11:50

    It is difficult to pray for those who do not share my thoughts and understanding. When i see what they have done to others, to my way of life, I cannot help feeling resentment and anger, but to follow the Lord I know I must take take this to the Lord and leave this “garbage” at his feet realizing only He can deal with it and I am not equipped to handle it. At least I come away feeling lighter, relieved and humble.

  8. maggie walker on March 21, 2016 at 10:32

    When a family is ripped asunder by manipulation, deceit and greed is is difficult to move forward in love and forgiveness. When old wounds that you thought were healed are scratched open and raw again it is difficult to not notice in almost every move you make. Practicing mindfulness helps, prayer helps and it takes time and intention to be like Christ…forgive them Father…forgive me

  9. Roderic Brawn on March 21, 2016 at 10:22

    Curiously when praying for others we are forced to see our own weaknesses and imperfections. That is a beginning.

    • Suzanne Haraburd on March 22, 2016 at 07:51

      And, if we look at our enemies in a Jungian way, they reflect back to us our own shadow qualities. Learning to love them helps us learn to love even the parts of ourselves that we suppress our awareness of, those parts of which we are ashamed.

  10. Muriel Akam on March 21, 2016 at 09:41

    I try this- praying for those whom I consider my enemies but it is hard and I still feel some animosity towards them or with myself for having let them annoy me. I try to understand their motives for hurting me either in my workplace or within my family/friends(?) and that is a start. Often it is a case of jealousy , fears , insecurity, misunderstandings and I try to rationalise and this a little helpful. But it is good to let go and move on. This Passion Week is always a sad time for me as I do feel Christ’s pain made more real by having watched the Oberammergau Passion Play which was amazing.

  11. Suzanne Haraburd on March 21, 2016 at 09:21

    This is something I have been practicing in my prayer life for years, perhaps half-heartedly. It is very hard to feel like I am making progress in loving my enemiles. Your blog encourages me to reinvigorate my efforts during Holy Week. Thank you!

  12. Eileen Mitchell on March 21, 2016 at 08:47

    Eldridge often emphasized that to me. As much as I don’t like praying for those I don’t like or with whom I’m angry, it’s the politicians I’m having trouble with right now. However the prayers do soften my heart even when I don’t want them to. Thanks for this reminder.

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