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Upon Loving our Enemies

3 min • Digitized on December 29, 2021

From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 99
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


Some one having complained to Blessed Francis of the difficulty he found in obeying the christian precept commanding us to love our enemies, he replied:

As for me, I know not how my heart is made, or how it happens that God seems to have been pleased to give me lately altogether a new one.

Certain it is that I not only find no difficulty in practising this precept; but I take such pleasure in doing it, and experience so peculiar and delightful a sweetness in it, that if God had forbidden me to love my enemies I should have had great difficulty in obeying Him.

It seems to me that the very contradiction and opposition we meet with from our fellow-men ought to rouse our spirit to love them more, for they serve as a whetstone to sharpen our virtue.

Aloes make honey seem sweeter; and wine has a more delicious flavour if we drink it after having eaten bitter almonds.

It is true that mostly a little conflict and struggle goes on in our minds; but in the end it will surely come to pass with us what the Psalmist commands when he says: Be angry and sin not. [Psalm iv. 5.]

What! Shall we not bear with those whom God Himself bears with? We who have ever before our eyes the great example of Jesus Christ on the Cross praying for His enemies. And then, too, our enemies have not crucified us; they have not persecuted us, even to death; we have not yet resisted unto blood. [Hebrews 12:4]

Again, who would not love this dear enemy for whom Jesus Christ prayed? For whom He died? For, mark it well, He prayed not only for those who crucified Him, but also for those who persecute us, and Him in us. As He testified to Saul when He cried out to Him: Why persecutest thou Me? [Acts ix. 4.] That is to say, Me in My members.

We are not, indeed, obliged to love the vices of our enemy; his hatred of good, the enmity which he bears us; for all these things are displeasing to God, Whom they offend; but we must separate the sin from the sinner, the precious from the vile, if we desire to be like our Saviour.

He did not admit the maxim of the world: “We must not trust a reconciled enemy.” In his opinion the exact contrary of this dictum is more in accordance with truth.

He used to say that “fallings out” in the case of friends only serve to draw the bonds of friendship closer, just as the smith makes use of water to increase the heat of his fire. He added, as a well-known fact in surgery, that the callosity which forms over a fractured bone is so dense that the limb will never break again at that particular place.

Indeed, when a reconciliation has taken place between two persons hitherto at variance, it is almost certain that each will set to work, perhaps even unconsciously, to make the newly-cemented friendship firmer. The offender by avoiding further offence, and atoning as far as possible for what is past, and the offended person by endeavouring in a truly generous spirit to bury that past in oblivion.

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