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The Power of Mercy - Loving Your Enemiesby Fr. Adrian Farrelly

No matter who you are, where you are and what you do, it is always good to have friends. In life, we all want to get on well with everyone, but that’s easier said than done! There are those who we find difficult and we tend to avoid. There are people we don’t get on with and those who don’t like us. There are even people who are against us. 

Jesus draws our attention to people like that. They represent the “enemies” He speaks about in the Gospel. As a priest, I listen to many people and no one wants to have enemies! Life is very difficult when you have people who oppose you or want to bring you down. So it comes as no surprise that the one teaching of Jesus we all find hard to follow is “love our enemies”. Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

How can we love our enemies?

How can we love those who have no time for us, who are against us, put us down and make life difficult for us, and who might even hate us? Why should we love such people? Loving our enemies seems like approving of them and letting them get away with their bad behaviour. This teaching of Jesus can be a stumbling block for many. There are times when we try to build a bridge of reconciliation with our enemies, but they reject our attempts. How can we love them as Jesus asks? How can we love them if they refuse to change or feel any different towards us? So the question remains: How can we love our enemies?


We can love our enemies with mercy

It is possible to love our enemies. The key that unlocks this love is mercy. God asks us to be merciful and to bring mercy into situations where it is absent. Mercy does not give up on those who are bad, troubled or broken. Mercy helps us to see in them more than just the negative. Mercy changes our attitude and actions. Mercy helps us to look at people differently. We look at people with eyes of mercy and suddenly, we see more in them. Mercy is about looking with compassion, with understanding and not being judgemental. Mercy is about giving another chance.


Love the sinner but not the sin

When Jesus was on the Cross, He was able to forgive those who crucified Him. He was able to love and to see beyond their cruelty. We have often heard, ‘love the sinner but not the sin’. By loving the sinner, we are not approving the sin. We’re loving the person God created and Jesus died for. With mercy comes new hope. When we love our enemy, we also hope that one day, they will return to the Lord.

Mercy can change enemies

As a priest, I see every day how mercy can change people. But instead of waiting for others to change, we are called to be the first ones to show mercy, the first ones to change, to start seeing the truth and the possibility of change in others. I have seen mercy paving the way for peace and enabling good things to happen. I’ve seen mercy healing division and hatred and controlling anger. I saw mercy enabling people to be tolerant and forgiving, stopping the feelings of hurt, hatred and resentment. Mercy will enable you also too see the other person in a new way, because mercy sees the hurt and anger but is gentle with it and brings comfort, thus allowing healing to begin.

Divine Mercy helps us to love our enemies
Love causes us to look differently at our enemies, with compassion and forgiveness. Love sees the good, love sees what is possible. Love facilitates forgiveness. The truth is that love and mercy go together. Mercy brings love and enables change to happen even when things seemed impossible. In this new light of God’s Love and Mercy, the person who we called “enemy” is more than what is negative, more than just badness and hatred. That’s why Jesus was slow to judge His enemies. On the Cross, Jesus spoke to the Father and said ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’. When we show mercy to someone, we give that person dignity. We remind them that we see in them more than just their badness. When we are merciful towards our enemies, God’s love flows through us, it changes and transforms us and them.

The enemy within myself
For some people, the enemy is not the person outside but within oneself. A man once said to me, ‘I hate myself’ and we can all be like that because of exterior things that control us and destroy us. The ‘enemy within’ might be an addiction or the inability to resist temptations. The ‘enemy within’ might be me putting myself down because of shame or guilt. The enemy might be our sins. But we are more than that; we are more than our addiction or our weakness. Loving your enemy might mean learning to love yourself. Our sins can make us enemies of ourselves. We can feel ashamed for what we have done. Loving our enemies means being able to let go of the pain and hurt and divisions and allowing the love to grow and transform us. Loving our enemies enables us to touch Divine Mercy.

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Our Lady Untier of Knots

Our Lady Untier of Knots
Unfailing Novena to Our Lady Untier (Undoer) of Knots, a wonderful nine-day prayer to Our Lady. This is Pope Francis' favourite Novena. One of the fastest growing Marian Devotions in the world.

 

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