Lenten Meditation: Friday, March 17, 2023
Today, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. The two greatest commandments, he tells us, are to love God and to love the neighbor. In a sense, the two are one. In the First Letter of John, we read that those who say they love God but hate the neighbor (which is to say, any human person) are lying (1 John 4:20).
The test of whether we actually love God, then, is whether we harbor hatred for anyone.
During the past many years, as our political life has become more and more polarized and vicious, I have found it harder and harder not to harbor hatred for anyone.
People speak of hating what people do without hating the people themselves. Hate the sin but love the sinner, they say. I’m not sure that’s possible. When I feel hatred, it is never for some abstract reality. It is for a person doing something that I find offensive. How is it for you?
Sometimes, the best I can do is pray for the people for whom I feel hatred. I can try to understand why they do what they do. I can remind myself that they must carry some deep wound that makes them do the things that I find to be so offensive.
None of that guarantees that my hatred will end, but it almost always lessens it. Compassion dilutes hate.
Today, pray for someone you dislike greatly, even someone you hate. Pray for the wisdom to understand them. Pray for the grace to see the ways you are actually like them, as distasteful as it might be to see it. Ask God to help you love them as God loves them, and as God loves you.