LOVE YOUR ENEMIES---only with God’s grace!


God's mercy is infinite!
 

Loving your enemies and praying for them is directly related to mercy and forgiveness. This is a supernatural grace that only God can give to those who are willing to receive it!  “Supernatural” means that it goes beyond our natural powers to achieve.

Jesus taught and lived what He preached.  The Bible says that Jesus first did and then He preached. This is authenticity. The opposite is duplicity or hypocrisy—to say one thing and then to do the other!

Many are the words of Jesus on love, mercy and forgiveness, but he proved it most eloquently by the way that he ended His life on the cross that first Friday that we call “Good”!  

Let us meditate deeply upon a few of the pearls of infinite price that came from the words of the wisest man who ever lived in human history—Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

1.     “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”

2.     In response to Peter on the limits to forgiveness, Jesus said: “I say that you are to forgive not seven times but seventy times seven times.”

3.     When presenting your gift with an unreconciled heart, Jesus said: “First leave your gift, be reconciled to your brother and then come back to offer your gift.”

4.    “I say to you forgive your persecutors and pray for your enemies.”

5.    “You have heard it said eye for eye and tooth for tooth. I tell you turn your cheek to the one who strikes you.”

6.     OUR FATHER.   In the very heart of the Lord’s Prayer Jesus inserted: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” To be forgiven by God, we must first forgive those who have offended us! It is a two-way street!

7.    BEST EXAMPLE!   Of all of the words and examples of forgiveness in the world, by far the best example can be taken from Jesus as He hangs dying on the cross, shedding the last drops of His precious Blood and forgiving with these words:  “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

All of these Biblical statements and examples are eloquent witness to the fact that we are challenged to live out the Gospel of love by forgiving those who have hurt us and  by practicing the greatest attribute of  the Sacred Heart of Jesus—His Divine Mercy. (Pope John Paul II and St. Faustina Kowalska)

We would like to give an example of a saint who lived this out in a most exemplary way as well as that of her mother.

SAINT MARIA GORETTI!

Brought up and raised in abject poverty and having lost her father at a very tender age, Maria Goretti manifested to the world a heroic witness of love mercy and forgiveness.

Maria, her mother and siblings were forced to share a humble abode with a man and his son, the Serenelli family. The son was a teenage boy named Alessandro.

From the start the two families worked side by side harmoniously. However, poison contaminated the relationship between the teenage boy and Maria. The poison was that of looking at pornographic magazines. Alex became addicted to porn and transferred that to viewing the little girl Maria with sinful glances and intentions.

Lust consumed him so much that he burned with passion for Maria.  This overflowed in his making sinful advances at Maria which she readily rebuffed!

The situation reached a head when one day Alex stormed in from the fields consumed by lust and passion, like a ferocious and ravenous animal. His mind and heart was determined and bent on one purpose—to carry out the sinful actions he had seen in the dirty magazine with the little girl, Maria Goretti.

Alessandro and Maria's resistance!
 
Maria was alone in the house watching over her baby sister and attending to household chores.  The wild animal Alex impetuously rushed on trying to force himself upon Maria, upon which Maria forcefully resisted with these words: “No it is a mortal sin and we will go to hell for it.”  These words seemed to infuriate Alex all the more and he pulled out an icepick and stabbed her a total of fourteen times.

Rushed to the hospital and dying a slow and painful death, a priest came to the bedside of Maria.  He asked Maria if she forgave Alex for what he did to her. Without any hesitation Maria responded:  “Yes I have forgiven him and I want him to be with me in heaven.”

Not too long after this heroic witness of defense of purity and virginity for the sake of the kingdom as well as heroic mercy and forgiveness, Maria Goretti passed from this life into the loving embrace of her Heavenly Father!

Vision of Maria by Alessandro
 
There are two more significant incidents worthy of note. First was that Alex was sent to jail without the slightest signs of repentance for murdering an innocent girl that he intended to rape! However, while in prison, Maria appeared to him assuring him of her forgiveness and encouraging him to open his heart to God’s mercy. This Alex did!  The Bishop of Nettuno came in to the cell and heard the repentant murderer’s confession. From that moment on, there was a radical change in his whole demeanor and comportment. In a word, he behaved like a humble saint!

The second was that, due to good behavior, Alex was discharged from jail earlier than was determined. One of the first gestures Alex did was to visit the mother of the murdered girl, Asunta Goretti.

The wounds of Maria
 
In one of the most emotional and moving moments in the history and lives of the saints, Alex knocked on the door of the mother of the daughter he murdered. It was Christmas Eve! After many years the aged repentant sinner asked her if she recognized him. She did! Then he asked if she could forgive him. Like the saintly daughter the mother responded: “If God forgave you and my daughter has forgiven you, then who I am not to forgive you.” Then she invited Alex in to a Christmas Eve meal to share with her and her family.

Then that very same night both of them went to the Christmas Eve Mass and received Holy Communion—the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ—together in Holy Mass.

In the year 1950, Pope Pius XII, in one of the most numerously attended canonization ceremonies, canonized SAINT MARIA GORRETI—patron of youth and the virtue of purity.

Present at the canonization ceremony was the mother of Saint Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli, the man who murdered her. But he was also the man that she forgave, the mother forgave, and God Himself forgave in His infinite mercy!

May we learn from St. Maria Goretti and the words, example and life of Jesus the powerful message of the importance of forgiveness and mercy!  “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”