“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
“[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them;a otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites* do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.b But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
This gospel is taken from our blessed Saviour’s divine sermon on the mount, wherein, after having declared, that he came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them, he shows to how much higher a degree of perfection he raises the Christian institute, above the law of Moses. The supreme excellence of the gospel appears no less wonderful in the extensive precepts of charity here delivered, than in the manner wherein Christ would have us bestow alms, and perform works of mercy to the poor; “Love your enemies, says he, and do good to them that hate you.” However difficult this command may seem to our corrupt nature, so prone to bear malice and seek revenge, yet it is positive, nor can any one be a disciple of Christ without observing it: it is not a counsel, but a precept, and one that carries with it the distinguishing characteristic of a true Christian: though it appears difficult to nature, yet by the help of divine grace it will become easy and pleasant. Christ requires nothing of us, but what we may perform by the assistance of his grace, and of which, not only he himself has set us an admirable example in his own person, but also in that of Joseph towards his envious brethren; David towards Saul; besides the examples of the apostles, of Saint Stephen the protomartyr, and innumerable other saints. This is the sublime perfection of the Christian law; for, if we love only our friends, or those who deserve our affection by their friendly offices, what do we more than the Jews or Heathens? Therefore Christ says, “Be you perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” by loving your enemies, forgiving injuries, and doing good to those that hate you.
To this precept which must be observed by all Christians, because it is the command of their Divine Master, may also be added, the regard we ought to have to our own eternal interest, which essentially depends upon the practise of this duty; for Christ has positively said, that unless we forgive others their trespasses, our heavenly Father will not forgive ours, and further, that the same measure we give to others shall be returned to us again: for which reason we are taught to say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If then, when we say this prayer, we at the same time bear a hatred to any one, and refuse to pardon him his offenses, do we not in reality desire of God that he would not forgive us our sins? Ah! ought not this consideration alone, readily induce us sincerely to forgive all those who have offended us.
This is that Christian spirit of charity, which forbids us to be at enmity with others, and by which we ought so to live, as to prevent, as much as possible, others being at enmity with us. If therefore, there should be any, who either with or without a cause, are our enemies, it is our duty always to show a prompt desire of reconciliation, but more especially at this time of Lent, when Christians are supposed to go to the altar more frequently, and with more than ordinary devotion: but they must be guided by the spirit of sincere charity, if they desire to render themselves and their devotions acceptable to God.
Having established this branch of the precept of chanty on a most noble and perfect basis, our blessed Saviour proceeds to give us instructions on another, that of giving alms according to our means, and showing mercy to the poor. He exhorts us, not to give alms with pomp or ostentation, lest the merit and reward of them should evaporate, and be lost in the smoke and pride of vanity: for although alms given with the sound of trumpet may make a great noise on earth yet they will never mount up to heaven; private charities are therefore more acceptable to God, and beneficial to ourselves: nor need we require any witness of what we do, since it is enough that God sees us, who can and will reward us: yet we are not to take these words of our blessed Saviour in the strict literal sense, for public charities or distributions of alms to the poor may be given, without any mixture of pride or vanity, with a pure and charitable intention, and then they not only edify our neighbor, but are also pleasing to God. St. Gregory gives us an excellent rule, to reconcile the seeming difference between giving alms in secret, and doing good works before men, that they may be edified, and glorify God. ” What we do, let us so do it, as not to seek or desire human applause: let the good work be done publicly, but let the intention be secret, that we may, by our good works, excite others to follow our example, and yet, by the purity of our intention, seek only to please God, desiring they should be known to him.” It is thus we may preserve ourselves from pride and vanity, whilst we observe the injunctions laid upon us by our divine Master.
Adorable Jesus, grant me the grace to obey your holy precepts. In obedience to you I will love my greatest enemies, and do good to those who hate me: for the love of you I sincerely forgive all who do me any manner of wrong, and for every injury, I desire you would bestow on them some special grace here, and a particular degree of glory hereafter. My Lord and my God, grant me purity of intention, that in all my actions I may seek nothing but your honor and glory, desiring that my good works may be known to you alone; preserve me from vanity and ostentation that I may so effectually contemn the praises of men, and never to seek or covet their esteem. All their praises cannot make me better than what I really am in your sight; let me be little in the eyes of men, and great in yours, for in this alone does true greatness and virtue consist.
What is the world but an empty nothing? What can we expect from it? Shall we, to please it and gain its vain applause, hazard the loss of God’s favor and approbation? May I never, my God, be guilty of such extravagant folly. Whatever I do, shall be done with a pure intention to please you alone. Your love and your favor is all I seek: let the world despise, and everyone slight me; if I am but approved of by you, it will be more than sufficient, and I shall be happy; this is the only felicity after which I aspire, and for this will I labor, by loving and serving you for your sake alone to the end of my life. Amen.
- Father Pacificus Baker. “Friday Before the 1st Sunday in Lent”. , 1904. CatholicSaints.Info. 1 February 2016. Web. 20 January 2017. <>