Praying for “enemies”

I woke up early this morning with this Scripture in my mind. I sort of wince at the words “enemies” and “persecute.” They seem like really extreme words. I’d like to think I don’t have any enemies. Opponents, yes, but not enemies. And persecute? There’s such a glut of persecution complex these days, where people see themselves as harassed and mistreated and use that as an excuse not to examine their own behavior and beliefs for places where they’re out of line. I feel a tremendous antipathy toward applying this Scripture to myself.

Still, this Lent I knew I needed to connect my spiritual practice to the examination of conscience I was already going through, and while I may quibble with the extremity of the labeling, the concept Jesus lays out here is exactly what I most need to do right now.

But it’s hard, and not just from the perspective of humility. HOW does one pray for one’s enemies? I mean, if you pray for them to be converted and changed, you’re assuming you are 100% right and they are 100% wrong, and we all know how Jesus felt about such self-righteousness. I can’t pray for them to find success in their endeavors, though, because the reason I feel such angst toward them is because I see their endeavors as deeply contrary to God’s will. And praying for God to bless them seems like a cop-out.

So this is my Lenten discipline: seeking to find the words that can be prayed authentically, for people I disagree with profoundly, while remaining humble enough not to think I have all the answers.

Blessed Are the Meek

I’ve written about the Beatitudes twice now –one book for families with young children, and now the new book, aimed at helping adult Catholics examine our lives in concrete ways, using the Beatitudes as a guide. Both times, it’s required me to rethink how I look at certain words. “Meek,” for instance, is not a quality any of us particularly prizes. As a woman, striving to find my voice in this world in a both/and rather than an either/or way (professional AND mother-wife), I’m acutely conscious of my own tendency to avoid asserting myself–to give way to others. And then to be bitter and resentful about how others’ voices are amplified above my own.

It’s something women talk about a lot when we discuss how difficult it is to make a dent in the world: how we feel a need to subordinate our own priorities and skills and voices in favor of others. Men don’t feel this compulsion nearly as much as we do. My husband often wants me to be more assertive in professional situations. It is a constant struggle.

And so, as a woman, my first reaction to the word “meek” is to put up my claws and hiss. I don’t need any more of that, thank you very much.

But in praying about how to write this section of The Beatitudes, The Spirit whispered the bit of wisdom contained above. That nugget shaped the section of the book on meekness, framing it in a whole new way, free of the baggage I attach to it naturally.

I realize now that meekness–real meekness, not some pale, distorted earthly version–is a trait I will spend the rest of my life trying to master.