Our Lord tells us in the gospel that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Let’s stop and consider this saying of Christ’s a bit more. He is God, and thus the one to whom all prayer is ultimately directed. And here he is, telling us to pray for those who persecute us. So basically he is saying to us: ask me for the well-being of those who persecute you. Doesn’t that seem a bit strange? If he is concerned about the well-being of our persecutors, why doesn’t he simply load them with graces and bring about the change for the better in their lives which he wants? Why tell US to pray to HIM for THEM?
Much thought has been given to this problem down through the ages since the life of Jesus upon earth. And a number of explanations have been offered for the words of Jesus. They boil down to several; one is that by praying, we become more aware of God’s supremacy over all things and our need to have recourse to him for all good gifts. Another is that by asking him for what we need and want, we humble ourselves and remind ourselves that of ourselves, we can do nothing, and therefore we must turn to him for our wants and needs. And yet another is the fact that we are given the great privilege of cooperating with God in the salvation of souls and the benefitting of our world, ourselves, and our neighbors. Our Lady told Saint Bernadette at Lourdes, “Pray for sinners.” Again, why? Are not the prayers of the Immaculate Mother of God far more powerful and efficacious than the prayers of the teenage girl gathering firewood by a small mountain stream in southwestern France? Couldn’t Our Lady of Lourdes do far more for sinners than thousands of us ordinary people? Yes, but by encouraging us to pray for sinners, Our Lady emphasizes the evil of sin and sinning, the dangers to which sinners expose themselves, and the importance of our concern for their well-being and our desire to help them. That is essentially the message of Jesus hanging on the cross, and crying out, “Father, forgive them . . .”
So, my dear friends, let us take the words of Our Divine Lord and his most holy Mother very seriously. Let us pray for those who persecute us and not treat them as they treat us. And let us pray for the sinners of the world, including ourselves in that category, of course. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.