Breaking the chain of evil and the spiral of violence

The real challenge is to love even the enemies

The third day of the papal journey opened this morning with the Eucharistic celebration in the Bahrain National Stadium. In front of thirty thousand people of 111 nationalities, the Pontiff presided at the mass for peace and justice, pronouncing the homily in Spanish which we publish below in an Italian translation.

Of the Messiah whom God will raise, the prophet Isaiah says: “great will be his power and peace will have no end” (Is 9, 6). It seems a contradiction: in the scene of this world, in fact, we often see that the more power is sought, the more peace is threatened. Instead, the prophet gives an announcement of extraordinary novelty: the Messiah who comes is so powerful, but not in the manner of a leader who wages war and dominates over others, but as the “Prince of peace” (v. 5), like the One. which reconciles men to God and to each other. The greatness of his power does not use the strength of violence, but the weakness of love. Here is the power of Christ: love. And he also gives us the same power, the power to love, to love in his name, to love as he loved him. How? Unconditionally: not only when things go well and we feel we love, but always; not only towards our friends and neighbors, but towards all, even enemies. Always and to everyone.

Always love And love everyone: let’s reflect a little on this.

First of all, today the words of Jesus (cf. Mt 5, 38-48) invite us to always love, that is, to always remain in his love, to cultivate it and practice it whatever the situation we live in. But be careful: Jesus’ gaze is concrete; he does not say that it will be easy and does not propose a sentimental or romantic love, as if in our human relationships there were no moments of conflict and there were no reasons for hostility between peoples. Jesus is not irenic, but realistic: he speaks explicitly of “wicked” and “enemies” (vv. 38.43). He knows that within our relationships there is a daily struggle between love and hate; and that even within us, every day, there is a clash between light and darkness, between so many intentions and desires for good and that sinful fragility that often takes over and drags us into the works of evil. He also knows that we experience how, despite so many generous efforts, we do not always receive the good we expect and, indeed, sometimes incomprehensibly we suffer harm. And, again, he sees and suffers seeing in our days, in many parts of the world, exercises of power that feed on oppression and violence, which seek to increase their own space by restricting that of others, imposing their own dominion and limiting fundamental freedoms. , oppressing the weak. Therefore – Jesus says – there are conflicts, oppressions and enmities.

Faced with all this, the important question to ask is: what to do when we find ourselves living in such situations? Jesus’ proposal is surprising, daring, audacious. He asks him for the courage to take risks in something that seems to be a seemingly loser. He asks to remain always, faithfully, in love, despite everything, even in the face of evil and the enemy. The simple human reaction nails us to “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, but this means getting justice with the same weapons as the evil received. Jesus dares to propose to us something new, different, unthinkable, something his: «the I tell you not to oppose the wicked; indeed, if someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other also to him “(v. 39). This is what the Lord asks of us: not to dream irenically of a world animated by fraternity, but to commit ourselves starting from ourselves, beginning to live concretely and courageously universal fraternity, persevering in good even when we receive evil, breaking the spiral of revenge, disarming violence, demilitarizing the heart. The Apostle Paul echoes him when he writes: “Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rm 12, 21).

Therefore, Jesus’ invitation does not primarily concern the great questions of humanity, but the concrete situations of our life: our relationships in the family, relationships in the Christian community, the bonds we cultivate in the work and social reality in which we find ourselves. . There will be frictions, moments of tension, there will be conflicts, diversity of views, but those who follow the Prince of Peace must always strive for peace. And peace cannot be restored if a bad word is answered with an even worse word, if a slap is followed by another: no, it is necessary to “defuse”, break the chain of evil, break the spiral of violence, stop to harbor resentment, stop complaining and crying. It is necessary to remain in love, always: it is Jesus’ way to give glory to the God of heaven and build peace on earth. Always love.

We now come to the second aspect: love everyone. We can commit ourselves to love, but it is not enough if we confine it to the restricted sphere of those from whom we receive as much love, of those who are friends, our fellow men, family members. Also in this case, Jesus’ invitation is surprising because it expands the frontiers of the law and common sense: already loving our neighbor, loving those close to us, even if reasonable, is tiring. In general, this is what a community or a people try to do to keep peace internally: if you belong to the same family or the same nation, if you have the same ideas or tastes, if you profess the same creed. , it is normal to try to help and love each other. But what happens if those who are far away come close to us, if those who are foreigners, different or otherwise, I believe, become our neighbors? This very land is a living image of the conviviality of diversities, of our world increasingly marked by the permanent migration of peoples and by the pluralism of ideas, customs and traditions. It is important, then, to welcome this provocation of Jesus: “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? ” (Mt 5, 46). The real challenge, to be children of the Father and build a world of brothers, is to learn to love everyone, even the enemy: “You understood that it was said: You will love your neighbor and you will hate your enemy. But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you “(vv. 43-44). This, in reality, means choosing not to have enemies, not to see in the other an obstacle to overcome, but a brother and a sister to love. To love the enemy is to bring the reflection of Heaven to earth, it is to make the Father’s gaze and heart descend upon the world, who does not make distinctions, does not discriminate, but “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and makes it rain on the the just and the unjust “(v. 45).

Brothers, sisters, the power of Jesus is love and Jesus gives us the power to love in this way, in a way that seems superhuman to us. But such a capacity cannot only be the fruit of our efforts, it is above all a grace. A grace that must be requested with insistence: “Jesus, you who love me, teach me to love like you. Jesus, you who forgive me, teach me to forgive like you. Send your Spirit upon me, the Spirit of love ”. We ask for this. Because many times we bring many requests to the attention of the Lord, but this is the essential for the Christian, knowing how to love like Christ. Loving is the greatest gift, and we receive it when we make room for the Lord in prayer, when we welcome his Presence in the Word of him that transforms us and in the revolutionary humility of his broken Bread. Thus, slowly, the walls that stiffen our hearts fall and we find the joy of doing works of mercy towards everyone. Then we understand that a blessed life passes through the beatitudes, and consists in becoming peacemakers (cf. Mt 5, 9).

Dear friends, today I would like to thank you for your gentle and joyful witness of brotherhood, for being seeds of love and peace in this land. It is the challenge that the Gospel gives to our Christian communities every day, to each one of us. And to you, to all of you who have come to this celebration from the four countries of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia -, as well as from other Gulf countries, as well as from other territories, today I bring the affection and closeness of the universal Church, which looks at you and embraces you, loves you and encourages you. May the Holy Virgin, Our Lady of Arabia, accompany you on your journey and keep you always in love for all.

Breaking the chain of evil and the spiral of violence – L’Osservatore Romano