Patriarch Daniel: Sincere love for enemies begins with prayer for their forgiveness

Patriarch Daniel - Palm Sunday homily 2017

On Sunday Patriarch Daniel said that it is quite difficult, though not impossible, that the sinful human nature change so much that a person can love the one who hates him and to wish the good of the one who hurts him.

‘In this regard, sincere love for enemies, without hypocrisy, begins with a prayer for their forgiveness,’ the Patriarch said Oct. 1.

On the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated at St Gregory the Enlightener Chapel of his patriarchal residence.

His reflection was based on the passage in the Gospel of Luke 6:31-36, in which Jesus urges his disciples to love their enemies and pray for those who mistreat them.

His Beatitude reflected on the possiblity to love our enemies, given the fact we often forget even those who do good to us.

The love for enemies is the criteria by which Christians differentiate themselves from pagans, and Saints from sinners, the patriarch noted.

Our Lord Jesus Christ knew that the people’s mentality was inspired by the Old Testament commandment to “love your neighbour and hate your enemy”. Jesus brings a radical change: instead of hatred towards enemies, he commands love for enemies. Thus, Christ exceeded all the lawmakers in the history of humankind, the patriarch emphasised saying that ‘no lawmaker ever commanded that one should love their enemies’.

In his homily, the patriarch pointed to hatred, reflecting how it became our second nature and spread throughout the world. However, His Beatitude said that hatred is not natural, and it does not conform to the image of God existing in man. He added that ‘only kindness or generosity understood as merciful, holy love is something natural and in accordance with the image of the kind-hearted God’.

His Beatitude cautioned that the memory of others’ wickedness with time becomes our own wickedness or spiritual illness.

It is very difficult, yet not impossible, that man’s sinful nature, prone to revenge, to change so much that a person can love the one who hates him and to wish the good of the one who hurts him.

‘At first sight, the Gospel urges for an uncommon spiritual state and an action hard to accomplish,’ the patriarch said. However, the Holy Fathers of the Church affirm that our Lord Jesus Christ never asks for what we cannot accomplish.

The patriarch said we should ask for Christ’s help if we cannot love our enemies, and Christ’s love will heal our soul wounded by the enemies’ wickedness. ‘By Christ’s grace, man can remove from his heart the thorns of hatred and the desire for vengeance’, he added.

Patriarch Daniel recalled how the first Christians were persecuted and prayed for the persecuting Roman emperor so that God free him from the demonic powers.

The patriarch went on to reflect on the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God in the Blachernae church, noting that Virgin Mary is an ‘unwavering intercessor’ to God.

The Theotokos is a fervent intercessor for us, especially for those who repent and regret their sins, for those who want to increase in love, the patriarch said.

The patriarch ended his speech by offering prayers to the Mother of God, asking her to grant everyone eternal joy.

Photograph: Basilica.ro

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