“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.’” (Luke 23:34) In the last moments of His life, Jesus asked God the Father to forgive those who had crucified Him. If Jesus could love His enemies in the most painful part of His human life, why is it so hard for me to forgive those whose only fault is to annoy me?
What makes one an enemy of God? I would say it’s when that someone tries to prevent God’s will from occurring. The top enemies of God that come to mind are Satan and all the fallen angels. But they would be just as quick to accuse all of humanity of the same crime because we often seek to do our will rather than God’s will. And yet all the fallen angels continue to exist because God not only created them, but continues to love them. I’ve heard it said that the fire of hell is because those in hell reject God’s love and so it burns them. God IS love; if He ceased to love them, they would no longer exist. Even in their fallen state, He allows them to play a role in turning people back to Him.
If we seek to know more about the enemies of God, we only need to read the Gospels, especially the parts about the Pharisees. Time and again they put Jesus to the test, trying to “catch” Him in some offense. They were so sure of themselves and their superior knowledge of God, their resistance to Jesus is so absolute, it’s almost comical. Of course two thousand years later and voluminous reflections on the Gospel passages allow us to see how wrong they were. Yet how many times do we think we know who God is and how He works? How many times do we pass judgement on others based on our understanding of the commandments? Do we always look at things in black & white, right & wrong? Or do we look through the lenses of mercy and justice?
Jesus sets the bar very high for us to forgive those who we see as our enemies. However, He also gives us a method to use: ask for God the Father’s help. We cannot forgive others all on our own, we’re only human. But each time we pick up the thought of how we have been wronged, we can ask God to help us forgive the individuals responsible. It’s not easy, but then again, we may not be aware of just how many times others have prayed for our forgiveness when we have wronged them. We can’t expect God and others to forgive us unless we seek to forgive those who have hurt us.
In these last days of Holy Week, let us ask God for help in purging the grudges, hurt feelings, and all other annoyances — both superficial and serious, from our hearts and minds. It may not happen in an instant, but if we could lessen our anger against our enemies, we may find a little more peace and joy the Easter season brings.