Last December in Syria, a Christian man (a taxi-driver and soon-to-be father) was beheaded because his brother was overheard complaining that the rebels [the anti-Assad side, fractious as it is] were acting like bandits. For this, the complainer's brother was murdered and his body fed to dogs.
That, then, is what kept running through my mind as I read the first reading (St Paul's exhortation that the Corinthians follow the good example of the people in Philippi -- and ultimately of Christ himself) and the Gospel ("love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you....be perfect as the Heavenly Father").
|Paul pointing to Christ's example.|
In the light of the atrocity I was exposed to (and how many that do not reach our ears or eyes?), this command is all the more timely. These are not vague, namby-pamby enemies we're talking about here; not petty injustices or subtle forms of social exclusion. These are "to the death" enemies; the very definition of the word "enemy". And Jesus tells us to "love them, pray for them"; empty yourself and take the form of a slave for them; die for them. Pope Francis is recalling each of us to this central Christian "ethos" which is both a mindset ("have this mind among you which is yours in Christ Jesus") and a way of life; a way of seeing as well as a way of behaving.
Jesus wants his followers to manifest God's indiscriminate goodness precisely in the situations that most mask and distort his presence; to transubstantiate the situation [this is our priesthood] and make it a place where, though "sin abounded, grace abounds all the more." That's just what happened on Calvary.