February 16, 2008
“…love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44)
This man should be remembered always with disgust and anger. But today, people recall him with subdued reverence never for what he did but for what was done for him.
In 1983, as he sat alone in his prison cell in Italy, he received not just a visitor but a surprise. The very person he sought to kill two years ago had come not just to visit him but to forgive him. The prisoner’s name was Mehmet Ali Agca, an assassin. The visitor’s name was Karol Woytila, a.k.a. Pope John Paul II.
The incident that day in that prison mirrors to us the truth about God’s mercy and forgiveness. In a sense, we cannot judge Agca because in many ways he reflects who we are in relation to God. In the same way that he received mercy from someone he sought to kill, we likewise received mercy from someone we did. And like Agca, we are prisoners of sin and Satan before Jesus came to visit us in our lives.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs categorically, “…love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44).
Not an easy task? Tall order? Quite impossible?
I am sure you know what I mean. Perhaps as you read this, the face of the person who slandered you, or abused you, or took advantage of you kept flashing back to your mind. And just the thought of forgiving this person makes you want to throw up as your entire being revolts from within.
That is why we have people like the late Pope John Paul II. To tell us that this teaching in Matthew 5:44 can be lived out. That this is possible. That this can be done.
“…But he’s the pope, Bob…” you say. But that’s just a title. The Pope was still human very much like you and me. He was also born tainted with original sin. He was subjected to the same human weaknesses and frailties. He was tempted regularly. And he may even really have struggled with them. But that is why his witnessing was powerful.
It shows us that despite our fallen natures in a fallen world, we can indeed love our enemies.
Today, think of those who hurt you whether intentionally or otherwise. Sincerely ask yourself the question if you have truly forgiven them. Then try to find ways to express to them whether through a phone call or a letter or even just a prayer, that you have forgiven them.
Loving your enemies is tough but not impossible. Take it from Pope John Paul II.
On February 2005, Agca sent a letter to the Pope to wish him well through his illness. On January 11 2008, Agca walked out of his prison cell in Turkey a free man. He finished serving his sentence in 2006 but he already served his purpose decades ago. That visit to him in jail proved to the world one thing: Loving your enemies is possible in a hate-filled world.
And it took a gunman and the Pope to reinforce that truth to the world.
The glory belongs to God forever.
A blessed day to you!
I remain, your friend in Christ,