Jesus says to his disciples, “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Our natural reaction to those who curse us is not to bless them, but to respond in a similar fashion. Most of us cannot live up to Jesus’ standard without much discipline, practice, conviction, and especially grace. However, there has been one moment in my life in which I received the grace to pray, bless and love one whom I formerly considered an enemy.
My parents sent me to an all-male Catholic school run by the Christian Brothers. This institution was well known for its athletic programs that have produced many professional athletes. Consequently, there were many peers who physically grew and developed at a pace much faster than me. Unfortunately, some of these peers did not possess a mature or gentle disposition. One day, while putting books into my locker on a very busy morning, I inadvertently left my backpack in the middle of a very narrow hall. By chance, a classmate walked onto my backpack and said to me, “Be careful where you put your backpack!” With my back to him, I only heard his voice and was under the impression that he was a small-statured Filipino student. With this conviction and the fact that the hall was full of backpacks from other students, I had every intention to tell him that it was his fault and he needed to be careful where he was walking. As I slowly turned around, I discovered that I was only partly correct. He was in fact Filipino, but also very large and exceedingly muscular. I abandoned my intention to reprimand and opted to apologise. He said, “That’s right, you ought to be sorry” and proceeded to kick my backpack down the hall. Regrettably, I had packed some yogurt that morning and it bursted and covered all the contents of the backpack.
I eventually finished school, went to the seminary and about ten years later, was assigned to a parish close to my former high school. One Saturday afternoon, while waiting in the confessional, a penitent entered. By mistake, I accidentally caught a glimpse of him through a crack in the divider. It was the Filipino classmate who had assaulted my backpack many years ago. Seeing him refreshed vivid memories. I felt as if Abishai whispered into my ears what he whispered to king David, “God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day.” As the confession commenced, the temptation for revenge was replaced by something else. I realised how much this man had changed. It is clear: he had become humble; he desired to be a good father and husband; he was seeking the Father’s mercy. I saw in his fatherhood a reflection of what my spiritual fatherhood should be. I was filled with deep remorse. One penitent walked into the confessional that afternoon, but by the grace of God, two walked out forgiven. It is possible to pray, bless, and love your enemy. With God, all things are possible.
* Abbot of St. Martin Abbey
Fr Marion Nguyen osb*