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Love changes people even in prison
During his imprisonment, Van Thuan, a Vietnamese Bishop, never lost hope. He took advantage of the opportunity to become closer to Christ through his daily prayer. He taught one of his jailers to sing an ancient hymn in Latin, and whenever he fell into depression, the Communist guard sang it for him, raising his spirits. Van Thuan said that initially his guards were changed every fifteen days. In fact, the prison authorities believed the guards risked being “contaminated” if left with him for any length of time. After some months, however, they stopped changing them because they were afraid that he would “contaminate” the whole force. Through this experience, Van Thuan became convinced that the love of Christ has great power to change people, even in a place like prison.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to love our enemies. This commandment is especially challenging if we are personally involved in a conflict. Suffering is too personal and too deep to be the subject of an argument. Pain is too serious to be a simple theory. Sometimes, there are no words to describe it. However, we can endure our painful feelings when we look at the example of Jesus himself. He doesn’t teach us by words alone. He gives his own example by forgiving and by loving those who hurt him.
Besides Jesus, we have the witness of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Their way of following Jesus is an inspiration for us, as is the story of that Vietnamese Bishop. We become more courageous when we hear their story. For our part, we can share our story and our experience of life with others. Our suffering is diminished if we share it with others, if we find a compassionate support. A shared suffering is less painful just as a shared joy is more profound.
Through a way of being
Above all, we can manifest our love for enemies if we become perfect as our Father is perfect. This perfection is not simply the result of our actions, but it rises from the depth of our being, created in God’s image and likeness. Each of us has a spark of the divine life. With this quality, we are perfect, not because of what we do, but because of who we are, beloved children of God. Another person is different from me—oftentimes this is a motif of hostility—but he or she is also son or daughter of God. God always invites me to become myself. In like manner, he invites my brother or sister to become himself or herself.
Far from being a motif of hostility, the difference between me and my brother or sister enriches our common life, our common belonging to the family of God. As the beauty of a bouquet of flowers is due to different colors, each of us contributes to the beauty of life with our own special color: the color of friendship, the color of openness, and the color of respect for difference.
Prayer: God of mercy, help us to become closer to our brothers and sisters despite all differences.
Resolution: Tell my friends a painful but transformative story about the love for enemies.