Sunday, Christians celebrated The Reign of Christ in the Christian Calendar. Does this mean that the Kingdom of God has been established and Jesus Christ now reigns? Well, yes and no.
Jesus gives us the great commandment which will be the rule when the Kingdom is fully established. The Great Commandment from Matthew 22: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
That certainly is a challenge but Jesus does not stop there. He ups the ante, “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, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
This is the essence of the Kingdom of God; love – love your neighbours and even your enemies. Can you imagine if you were to tell this to someone who is not Christian or even many Christians? I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of people loving their enemies on the news. If we are honest, how many of us can say that we love those who persecute us or even neighbours who are difficult or even nasty? If asked I will admit that I may be able to love the difficult people in my life with a lot of effort. However, the nasty people are very difficult, if not impossible.
How then, are we to love our neighbours of every variety and type- pleasant and nasty, good or bad or even your enemy – how are we to live out the Great Commandment that our Lord and Saviour gives to us as Christians? I don’t know if you are familiar with Richard Rohr. He is a Roman Catholic priest who I find very helpful in my journey following Jesus Christ. He recently provided something which I believe can be helpful in this challenge to love our enemies. I would like to invite you to participate in this short exercise.
Father Richard offers a practice of deepening love and healing:
How do we come to know love so that we can live from its depths? Love cannot be understood by the mind. And if God is love, God will never be subject to the mind as we know it. God and love can only be experienced. This simple practice is an invitation to encounter love in its very physical, connective reality.
Place the palm of one of your hands on your heart. Feel your heart beating, letting its rhythm bring you into the present moment and into the awareness of God’s blessing on your life, beat after beat after beat.
Bring to your conscious mind a loved one, an ancestor, a favorite place or animal, or anything that makes you smile with undeniable, spontaneous, unconditional love and joy.
Bring that particular beloved being or thing down from your mind and place it right under your palm, in your heart space. Relax your mind and let your heart relax at the same time, feeling the sensation of blood vessels, muscles, and chest cavity opening in warmth and love for that particular loved thing. Smile.
Now humbly place a challenging person, issue, or problem directly under your palm, within your wide-open heart space. This could be someone or something currently challenging you or an old hurt from a person gone from the living world. Silently continue to smile and hold this challenging thing in the warmth of your heart.
With closed eyes, look at the thing that causes you pain, visualizing the detail that bothers you the most, all the while smiling. Consider that there may be reasons why this thing brings hurt. Smile at the fragility, suffering, or misunderstanding that makes it this way.
Finally, give the person or problem to your heart and ask that your heart’s wisdom and love take over. Rest in the Love that loves both you and the other and wants to transform all into its loving image. Open your eyes and return to what is around you.
Let us love one another as Jesus loves us. With God’s help it is possible. May you be blessed on your journey to experience the love of Jesus and share that love with your neighbours - even those who are your enemies.