This article from John Martens writing in America Magazine is an answer to a recent prayer. In his discussion of loving our enemies, he concludes:
It is this desire (for perfect love), grounded in the longing to be holy as God is holy, that allows us to rise above our feelings for vengeance, feelings which the world understands, accepts and might even urge on us, to love our enemy. In the love of enemy we convert not only our own hearts, but the possibility exists that when we forego destroying enemies with weapons of vengeance, then love, the weapon of the spirit, will transform them.
So, I prayed recently that the Lord would guide me to my next meditation.
I’ve been wondering lately … reconsidering really…my long-held views about any number of subjects, but most recently capital punishment. Right or wrong? I used to be more certain of my answer. Today, not so much.
It was in the middle of the night. I’d awakened briefly and was in that dreamy half-sleeping, half-waking state.
In the beginning when I was more awake and said ‘hi’ to God, as I always do when I first awake. Then I continued to say a couple of prayers, thinking about each phrase as I progressed through them, considering how each phrase related to me over the last few days or weeks.
That was the beginning. Then I sort of drifted off into a space that was dreamier. I was still conscious enough to be aware of and remember the thoughts and images I was having.
This was the message I got back. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but this is the next stream of thoughts that I had.
I was contemplating love and evil, juxtaposing them, acknowledging that God is pure love. Jesus is pure love. I acknowledged that we are called to love Jesus and try to be more like him. In order to be fully with God, we are called to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves.
I moved on to consider evil. What is it? Hatred, vileness, greed.
Where do they come from? What’s their basis? Is it fear? Hmmm, maybe. Hatred and vileness, villainy can often be traced back to fear. Is the devil fearful?
You know, I think He probably is. I think He knows the end of the story, too. I think He knows that God wins. But the devil’s nature is what it is.
When I have called upon God’s protection, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the devil’s presence…his essence in my thoughts, or his seeming presence with me…goes away. It just dissolves into an impotent vapor and slinks off.
On the basis of his occasional reappearance, I know the devil has not been fully conquered in me, but God’s power is always available, on call, to help me overcome evil’s temptations.
So, if we can do what God has asked us to do — to love Him, to aspire to be like Him, to project pure love — then should we not also be able to dispel fear and hatred in others? To project such compassion and charity that the power of evil is dissolved, vaporized in the face of our love?
Back to capital punishment. Why do we put people to death? To keep them from ever harming others in society? Justice? Well, yes.
Okay, forget capital punishment for now. It’s too complicated an issue for me at this point.
But isn’t love the goal? Doesn’t Our Father want each of us to begin – now, right where we are, to learn to love so purely, to love so strongly, that evil has no foothold in our lives. That the devil and all his forces can gain no traction?
If love conquers fear and hatred, which we know it does in the end, then when we approach any situation in our lives – any confrontation, argument, disagreement, physical attack even – if we take on the mantel of pure love, devoid of fear — if we don’t allow fear to seep in, I wonder if the hatred and vileness of those others whom we confront would dissolve before us, just as if they were standing before Our Father?
If so, good to go. If not, well I guess we might meet Our Lord all the sooner.
So, are we still good to go? Are we prepared to die, as we offer love as our self-defense?
I guess it requires detachment from life itself, doesn’t it? The Jesuits say we must have a spirit of detachment, even from life itself, in order to fully be one with God.
Well, that’s the meditation. I know for certain, I don’t have a clear answer to all this yet for myself.
I still feel more comfortable carrying and knowing how to use self-defense aids. I will continue to encourage our children to stay alert to threats. And I feel a certain relief, when a cold, calculating, murdering sociopathic sex offender or child trafficker is put out of his or her misery.
Can we not advocate for our enemy’s incapacity, his incarceration, possibly his elimination, while still loving him, mourning his death or injury. To act with justice, but without vengeance or hate, without a desire for retribution?
In the end, love is the goal. How do we love You better, Lord?