Categories
Ink Slingers Lent Michelle Prayer Spiritual Growth

Praying for Our Enemies: A Lenten Sacrifice

Welcome to day 26 of our Lenten season. If your season has been going anything like mine, well, you are probably as eager as I am to be done with Lent and praying to move on to the Easter season- to hope and to joy. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to skip through the difficult times in order to get to the party that awaits us. No, we have to carry our cross as Christ did, work through our suffering, and die to ourselves before we can experience the Resurrection and the joy that comes as we rise with Christ.

As I have plodded along through Lent, I often stop to reflect to see how I am doing in my Lenten practices and sacrifices. If I am to be honest I will have to tell you that I haven’t done that good. I started out with many things I wanted to give up and to add into my daily life. Things that should have helped me become holier and draw me closer to God. Unfortunately pretty quickly into Lent I abandoned ship so to speak. I decided that the things I had chosen to do and to give up weren’t going to draw me closer to God in the manner that I felt He {and I} deserved.

And so I sat down and prayed. I asked God what He wanted of me. I asked what I could do to draw closer to Him. I should have known that what He would choose for me was going to be much more difficult than the things I chose for myself. When we put God to the challenge He will rise to it every time!

This Lent God asked me to pray for those who have hurt and are hurting my family… and He asked me to focus particularly on one person. THE PERSON. You know the one {we all have one in our lives} who lives to make our lives miserable. God wants me to pray for her. It’s been hard. No, it’s been a downright arduous task… one that without Christ’s help I would never be able to do.

Most of the time when I need to forgive someone I think of Christ’s mercy upon the cross when He says, “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) I think about how difficult it must have been to look down upon those who ridiculed and tortured Him and still extend forgiveness. This time has been harder though as I know the person I am praying for not only comprehends what she is doing but she delights in it as well. Still, we are called to not only forgive but love and pray for our enemies and so, I pray.

But I don’t like it.

As Lent progresses, praying for her is getting a little easier. I don’t despise it near as much as I used to but I haven’t fully embraced it yet either. There are many days I pray for her begrudgingly. I have to stop myself from thinking ugly things and simply pray for her happiness, her well-being, and for her heart to be opened to God’s love. Talk about a sacrifice!

St. Alphonsus Liguori said, “True charity consists in doing good to those who do us evil, and in thus winning them over.” It’s hard to ever think of “winning her over” but I also know that no one is ever a lost cause. There is always hope. And so, I pray.

I know that my Lenten sacrifice is not simply for the woman’s benefit {as prayer is always beneficial even if the one we pray for doesn’t want or believe in prayers}, but is also for my benefit. God is helping me to overcome the despair, the anxiety, and the disdain I feel bubbling up inside of me when I think of all she has done and continues to do to our family. He is helping me to see that even those who hurt me, those who persecute me, or who wish me harm are still worthy of my love and my prayers.

It’s a hard lesson to learn and to accept as it is completely counter-cultural.

But Christ was counter-cultural too. He loved the unlovable, healed those whom society had tossed aside, and he dined with the sinners. He forgave the ones who persecuted Him and saw the worth in each and every person He encountered. Those around Him had no idea what to think of this radical approach to life and to love.

I know that this Lent God is calling me to that same radical love. I’m trying my hardest to answer the call. I recognize God’s desire to change my heart and my soul during this process. And it’s working. While I know I have a long way to go, I also know that Christ will be there every step of the way, loving me and loving her and helping to build the bridge between us by the wood of His cross.

Please pray for me, friends, as this is a difficult journey for me. Please also pray for this woman. She is very lost in this world and needs as many prayers as she can get.

Tell me, how is YOUR Lent going? Has it been challenging? What has Christ called you to do to draw closer to Him?

Categories
Mary Prayer Rachel M Rosary

Taking Your Enemy Off The Cross

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven”. -Matthew 5: 44-45

Once upon a time I had a job outside the home, a career even. As a middle school teacher at a Catholic school, I enjoyed my job, but there were a few days out of the year I loathed. Two of these days were our staff retreats. You see there are few things more torturous to a teacher than to use one of her days without students, namely the day before Thanksgiving, as a day to put her in a room full of crabby women and insist she do ice-breakers and reflections.

Sounds awful right?

Ok, maybe I just didn’t have the right outlook. At least that’s what I told myself the morning of one of these said retreats in 2007. I reminded myself that some people would love the opportunity to get paid to attend a spiritual retreat. So, I pulled up my big girl pants and went in with as much of a positive attitude as I could muster.

Our retreat started out with Holy Mass and there must have been some sort of staff meeting and speaker, but I don’t remember any of those things. I do remember though what Fr. Sean Kilcawley asked me to do for our meditation, and what he asked of us seemed utterly impossible to me.

He asked us to pray for the student, the parent, or the situation we were most struggling with in that moment. He asked us to pray for our adversaries, our enemies. This of course made sense, and it’s something we often hear, but what struck me was how he asked us to pray. Now, I must unfortunately paraphrase and hope that the Holy Spirit can guide me to explain with His words; Fr. Kilcawley asked us to, “use the power of the rosary and the Holy Mother’s guidance in conjunction with the Sorrowful Mysteries to gain a better perspective of your enemy’s life and your role in it.”

Wait. What? I had to consider the pain of a person whose very presence made my skin crawl? Not cool Father, not cool. But like I said, I had put on my big girl pants that day, so I told myself it was time to attach the suspenders and get over it.

So, there I sat, rosary in hand, ready to pray. I knew whom God was calling me to pray for, and even admitting that was rough for me. I didn’t want to pray for this person, in fact I didn’t even want to think of this person on my “day off”. But believe me when I tell you, that this was one of the most powerful prayer experiences of my life.

I began the rosary, with much trepidation. This time as I came to each Sorrowful Mystery, not only was I asked to ponder the sorrow of Mary, but Father had asked me to consider how each mystery could relate to my “enemy’s” life and the crosses that he or she might have to bear.

The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and finally The Crucifixion; as I progressed through the rosary, I found myself becoming more and more compassionate toward my enemy. I will admit that the most difficult mystery for me was The Crowning with Thorns, and I must have pondered that for a good 5 minutes before coming up with something, but just those five minutes of considering someone else’s hardships was so important to changing my heart. I did my best to imagine my enemy dressed as Jesus, with Jesus’ wounds and with our Blessed Mother crying tears of sorrow for his pain.

By the end of the rosary, I truly felt my heart had changed. Not only did I feel differently about this person, but I felt different, period. It was one of the most intense prayers I had participated in up to that point in my prayer life, and I left the church feeling as though God had really heard me.

If you would like to implement this meditation in your prayer life, here are some ideas to get you started. I fully concede that this may not be easy for you at first, but it will aid you in letting go and giving full control over to God.

Agony in the Garden – How has your enemy agonized over decisions that he or she has made? When they have made decisions that upset you, were they easy choices for that person to make?

The Scourging at the Pillar – What emotional, physical, verbal, or spiritual abuse has your enemy suffered, both in his or her past or currently? Have you caused any of this abuse?

The Crowning with Thorns – How has your enemy been made fun of, or mocked in his or her life? Does your enemy make choices you disagree with in order to save face or because of peer pressure?

The Carrying of the Cross – What crosses does your enemy have to bear alone? Has your enemy asked you for help carrying these crosses, and have you refused? Are you a cross for your enemy to bear?

The Crucifixion – How have you crucified your enemy? Have you allowed your enemy to get down from the cross?

I think about this prayer often when I am in disagreement with someone, or when there is a person whom I just cannot trust. I often use this as a last resort prayer, because to me it is so powerful and it is serious spiritual work. But, when I do pray for my enemies using this prayer, my heart is changed.

We know we cannot change anyone else, but we can soften our hearts and pray for others.