Cheerful Salutations for Your Nemesis!
We've all got one (or two!)... a person with whom any sort of interaction leaves us feeling like we want to punch a wall, scream into a pillow, or pray for a special sort of smiting that only God can occasion.
I kid, I kid. Sorta.
In all seriousness, though, even a simple act of greeting that person is a test of our charity. I know for myself, it's also a test of humility (and I've been known to fail that test, repeatedly, for years).
I've done a lot of reflection on this. Once again, those Sorrowful Mysteries haunted my meditations, and visions of Our Lady opening her heart to those who crucified her Son shamed my over-inflated ego. Now that I understand the "cold shoulder" and "angry silence" are the result of pride, I can no longer continue to rely on them. I need to break myself of these bitter habits if I fancy the idea of doing right by Jesus.
So I resolved to remain cheerful and say "Hello" despite the immense well of irritation that bubbled away beneath my calm exterior. And I was successful, but again, only "sorta."
What do I mean by that? Well, for starters, though I'd say "Hello" I wasn't exactly cheerful. It was almost a quick "Hi" just to get it over and done with so I could pat myself on the back and go "Good job, you did your civic duty!" On top of that, I'd also high-tail myself away from any further discourse as I doubted my own ability to remain civil for more than the reflecting two syllable response.
Not exactly the Christian way of acting like a loving person, huh?
I quickly realized that I couldn't just "go through the motions" of loving my enemy. I really had to reach for the Love of Christ in order to grow. So I relied on Our Lady. I looked to her for the example I needed and poof... I got my lightbulb moment in the form of a fleeting image.
Our Lady was standing at the foot of the Cross. No doubt she was agonizing in unison with her Beloved Son. However, upon His Death, as the soldier standing guard proclaimed that He was, in fact, the Son of God, her heart must have leapt in joy. Yes! Another soul has been touched by my Son. Another soul has seen the Light and will journey back to God!
This soldier who pierced the Side of Christ - we know him as St. Longinus - who promptly proclaimed the Truth of the Savior... would she have coldly shut him away from her heart while struggling against the crushing weight of desolation, loss and pain? Never. Our Lady rejoiced that another soul - so dear and loved by Jesus - was again on the road towards reconciliation.
Thus, if the Blessed Mother, even in such sorrow... even with every right to turn angrily away from those who killed her Son... if she was able to continue to open her heart joyfully towards these people, how can I do any less, especially when I have less reason to be angry, hurt or sorrowful?
So I thought on this some more. How could Mary rejoice in souls who had hurt her so? The answer was Jesus. She rejoiced because these enlighened souls were now going back towards Jesus, and that is Christ's singular desire - to have souls come back to Him. As always, the Blessed Mother leads me to my answer, and that answer is always "Jesus."
Jesus resides in every single human soul. Regardless of how wicked, evil or thoughtless they are, God's ruah- His life-breath- resides within their souls. Thus, in opening our hearts to even those who most hurt us, we open our hearts to Christ.
With that in mind, I've been much more successful in dealing with "enemies." I no longer view them as enemies so much as souls who need to feel the potential for reconciliation. Had the Blessed Mother turned her eyes coldly upon those centurians, would they have felt absolution possible? Would they have retained their faith in Jesus that Love could, in fact, triumph?
No. That is why we must follow Our Mother's example and open our hearts to everyone - joyfully - in the hopes that they, too, feel something of Christ's love. And if we still harbor some bitterness, at least do Christ the honor of greeting Him through the person He chose to create. If He deemed this person worthy of not only love, but love through death on a cross, who are we to deem them differently?
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