Today’s Gospel reading tells us that God “...makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” This is one of the hardest truths from Sacred Scripture for us to understand. We wonder why those who do evil are able to continue, given that God is perfectly Good and Just. God only does not stop their wicked deeds, He causes the sun to shine upon them and gives them rain for the harvest.
As we explore this idea, it helps to remember that God is not limited in the goodness or grace He can give. There is not a fixed supply such that some people receive grace at the expense of others. We are also told elsewhere that the wicked and impenitent will pay the price for their deeds. That payment may not be required right now, but it will be extracted if they remain set against the ways of God. We further know that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance ad faith. If we keep in mind that justice and vengeance belong ultimately to God, that He is not limited in the love He can give, and that He wills the greatest good for all His creatures, we can better see why Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us.
The act of prayer is always transformative. We cannot enter the presence of God or encounter Him and remain unchanged. First and foremost, prayer changes us. For example, when we pray “thy will be done” we must bear in mind that the Father’s will is explicitly for us to be conformed to the image of the Son. We are asking God to change us. To make us more like Jesus who gave His life up to take away the sin of the world, and prayed for His enemies in the process. Jesus had (and still has today), many enemies.
There is always great opposition to the light of Christ. Though the darkness shall not overcome the Light, the forces of darkness remain until one day they are wiped away. If Jesus has enemies, then we should expect to have enemies as His followers. It is spiritually deleterious to send back the same hate we receive. When we return hate for hate, violence for violence, we cease to remain in the light of Christ. It is easy to love those who love us back and to quickly adjust our views as the sands of life shift.
Jesus asks us to draw strength from the divine power and go beyond what we are naturally capable of doing. To bless those who hurt and persecute us is indeed a supernatural act. We can only do this by walking with Christ, taking strength and encouragement from Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.