Today’s gospel calls us to forgive our enemies. As a person passionate about social justice, I hear this Scripture calling me to also consider empathy and dialogue. Can we identify the humanity and the inherent dignity in those who do wrong to us or to others? Can we love them in a way that also works toward addressing these injustices?
To live and love this way can be difficult. It may be easier to see those who hurt ourselves or others as selfish or as intentionally harmful. Yet, that outlook fosters alienation and isolation instead of community and connection. The gospel recognizes the challenge present here, but encourages us to persist: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.”
In this gospel, Jesus offers guidance that seems counterintuitive. In the same way, finding common ground with those who oppress others may also be counterintuitive, especially when we are tempted to be angry instead of loving. However, empathy enables us to engage in dialogue, change, and social justice. We can see examples of this in peace processes in our country and around the world. When we come to a place of understanding, it may also be a place of peace.