Anne O’Brien, Leader of Mission Integration for St Agnes’ Catholic Parish, joins us again to read and reflect on the Gospel of Matthew (5: 43-48) in which Jesus asks, ‘If you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much.’

Today is a continuation of yesterday’s Gospel and, once again, a continuing challenge to be perfect just as the heavenly Father is perfect – that’s an awesome challenge! Love your enemies, this is the challenge to us today as we aim to be ministers of Christ, as we said yesterday that Jesus was asking us to do.

Jesus became poor and suffered human sufferings because he was willing to take on such human poverty and pain to offer us the gift of his Grace borne through his suffering. He became human to teach us and live the life of a human to show us what we should do in our lives. Everything Christ did, he did for our sake. He didn’t have to become human, a poor human, but he did so that we could have the riches of heaven. Like Jesus, we must have a passion for helping others. Like Jesus, we should have hearts that prioritise the needs of others first.

Loving those you love is very easy but loving our enemies is a lifelong challenge. What does it look like then if we are to love our enemies?  Sometimes it might seem that we’re being weak when asked to love those who persecute us. This is one of the difficulties in this lesson that Jesus is trying to teach us.

So as yesterday, Anne says, we are being challenged and she suggests that we think of a person we find difficult to love, someone who challenges us; someone who is hard to love; someone who perhaps you perceive could be an enemy. She asks us to take up the challenge today to pray for that person instead of having feelings of dislike towards them – to take up the challenge to pray from them and to seek God’s help for them.

Anne invites us to commit, for a week, to pray for this person every day and then afterwards to reflect on how that time in prayer might have helped us in our relationship with that person. She says, we all know some people in our lives, family, friends, colleagues at work, who can be sometimes be difficult, so we seek God’s help in those difficult relationships.