Saturday of the First Week of Lent
Enemies. We like to think we don’t have them – in our nice towns, our nice communities, our nice parishes, surely there are no enemies. Yet Jesus said: “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Mt. 10:36) The psalms are full of concern about dealing with one’s enemies. It is as easy as trying to recall what the playground was like back in grammar school – or the bitter rivalries of high school – to begin to sober up on the question. And then there’s the next door neighbor, and the question of the fence and the tree and the cat….
Having enemies is a sad reality of the human condition, and it extends beyond the human into the spiritual, for the devil is certainly the enemy of Christian souls. Indeed, our tradition teaches that the soul on its way to God has three particular enemies: “the world, the flesh and the devil.”
In our world today, we see a large religious force intent on obliterating people it considers enemies. This did not begin yesterday, and there were times when our own tradition veered from Jesus’ teachings enough to also attempt to obliterate human enemies. We must acknowledge the realities of the human condition, and the realities of the human heart: and then we must surrender all and beg for the grace to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We cannot do this on our own: we desperately need the grace of Jesus. And since He has commanded it, He will surely give us the grace, if we keep asking, insistently. We will never lack for enemies for long: may we never lack the humble grace to admit our inability to love them on our own, and to beg for Jesus’ help in following His example.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.