ROME – At a time when many within the Catholic Church are at odds with each other, Pope Francis on Sunday said that Jesus wasn’t “using nice turns of phrase” when he called upon those who follow him to “love your enemies.”
Christ “was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises,” Francis said. “He asks of us the extremism of charity. It is the only kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love. Love your enemies.”
“If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way,” Francis. “Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do.”
Speaking at Mass in the Southern Italian city of Bari, the Argentine pontiff said that Jesus’s call to love one’s enemies and pray for those who persecute you is the “Christian innovation.”
“It is the Christian difference. Pray and love: this is what we must do,” he said, and not only with those who we consider our friends.
How many times, Francis said, have Christians “neglected” the Lord’s demand to have the courage to “love without measure.”
Christ “was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises,” the pope said. “He asks of us the extremism of charity. It is the only kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love. Love your enemies.”
The pope urged Christians to not worry about the malice of others, but to instead focusing on loving God, as those who love him have no enemies in their heart. Worshiping God, he said, is contrary to the culture of hatred, which can be fought by “combating the cult of complaint.”
“How many times do we complain about the things that we lack, about the things that go wrong!” Francis said, adding Jesus knows that there will always be someone in our lives who dislikes us or who makes our life miserable; yet he still asks those who follow him to pray and love.
“This is the revolution of Jesus, the greatest revolution in history: From hating our enemy to loving our enemy; from the cult of complaint to the culture of gift,” he said. “If we belong to Jesus, this is the road we are called to take!”
Even though in the eyes of the world the logic of Jesus can seem like those of losers, Francis said, Christ knows “how to win,” he understands that evil can only be conquered by goodness, which is why he saved humanity by the cross and not the sword.
“To love and forgive is to live as a conqueror,” he said. “We will lose if we defend the faith by force.”
Francis called upon the thousands gathered in Bari to participate in the open-air papal Mass to ask for the grace to be able to see others as brothers and sisters to be loved and not as hindrances, praying not only for help but to “learn how to love.”
“Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide,” Francis said. “Let us accept the challenge of Jesus, the challenge of charity. Then we will be true Christians and our world will be more human.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma
Crux is dedicated to smart, wired and independent reporting on the Vatican and worldwide Catholic Church. That kind of reporting doesn’t come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by giving a small amount monthly, or with a onetime gift. Please remember, Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax-deductible.