“Love ye your Enemies.
“Starting with the Sunday about “the talents,” the Sunday readings have been showing us how a talent (the strength given to each of us by God to fulfill His commandments of love for God and neighbor) was manifested in various Christian qualities of the human soul On the Sunday about “the Canaanite woman” — in deep humility; on the Sunday about “the miraculous catch of fish” — in obedience to the word of God, in unshakable faith. And here in the Apostle and Gospel readings for this Sunday — in great patience in sorrows, in great spiritual comfort, and especially in the unspeakable joy which is hidden in mercy and love for one’s enemies. The last one, by human standards, appears to be unnatural; but because of the strength of the Lord’s talent, it is possible, joyous, wonderful.
This is what the Apostle says today: “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for ever, knoweth that I lie not” (II Cor. 11:31). What is this? What is the Apostle going to say further if he makes such a beginning in which he affirms, “I lie not”? Further on, he reveals what happened to him in Damascus: “In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (II Cor. 11:32-33). As you can see, a terrible epoch of martyrdom was opening up, which the first Christians lived through after the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, at the beginning of the preaching.
The Apostle Paul was going to Damascus to persecute the Christians. But on the way, the Lord Himself appeared to him in a vision and said: “Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 9:4). And here the truth was revealed to the Apostle Paul. The Messiah, the true Messiah appeared to him on the road to Damascus. And when he arrived in Damascus, instead of persecuting the Christians, he himself started to preach Christ. Knowing his past, they did not believe him at first. But later, when they did believe, they began to consider him a traitor, an enemy of the Jews. This is why the Apostle Paul begins this passage with the words: “I lie not.” Because in order to preach Christ as the Messiah Who had come, strength was required; and a special grace of God was needed, that talent which God gives to his servants, to strengthen such a preacher. And here the same talent which strengthened the Apostle earlier in Damascus, when he was almost caught to be martyred (and only a miracle delivered him from their hands); this same talent supported and encouraged him even now.
And further on in this Epistle, the Apostle Paul shows us in more detail what actually strengthened his spirit in such a difficult struggle. “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven” (II Cor. 12:2). A mysterious revelation. There, Christ appeared on the road, and here, Christ revealed to him a great mercy. He revealed the state in which the soul perceived “the third heaven,” a state of spirit, a peace of heart which is ineffable.
So in giving us this reading today, the Holy Church shows us that there was something in the martyrdom of the first Christians which supplied them with that strength in which appeared an unearthly force, which is this same godly talent, the gift of God. This was a peace of soul which covered all suffering, covered all earthly sorrows, which was completely above everything. Here is the state of spiritual strength which is presented to us today for our edification. We must follow the Lord. But how do we start on this way? Today’s Gospel shows us the beginning, the first steps which a Christian must make in order to walk. If you remember, the Gospel said: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye?” (Lk. 6:31-32). And further, “If ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? …But love ye your enemies, and do good [to those who hate you], and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest* (Lk. 6:34-35).
“Love ye your enemies/9 This is the first step which today’s Gospel reading offers us, so that we may receive that strength which the Apostle Paul also received in a vision of the third heaven, as did all the martyrs. If we will fulfill what the Holy Church gives us in the words of the Gospel, then let us only start to do so; let us step on this new way. And we will receive that revelation which will help us in those terrible moments when grief invades our soul when sorrows surround us. The grief and sorrows will go away. Yes, they will leave us, because in that moment these points of grace, this godly light of Christ, will be revealed to us and will give us strength to bear the burdens of our earthly life, so that we may be comforted in Eternal Life with Christ.
“Love ye your Enemies.