In these days of international terrorism, the countries of the world are constantly seeking military and political solutions to end the violence. Many ideas on the best courses of action are always proposed and are either slowly acted upon or not acted on at all; some aren’t the solution at all. Then the blame games begin as to who is doing the better job or who is responsible for the rise in terrorism.
It seems pretty obvious to me what the causes are that foment terrorism: hopelessness, helplessness, injustice, lack of justice, corruption, racism, lacking of respect for the human person, economic injustices, and religious intolerance. These are all points that Pope Francis and the Catholic Church continually point out.
Upon seeing the senseless horrors and destruction terrorism brings it is easy to get caught up in vitriolic feelings and talk. It is a natural human reaction to want to go out and destroy the perpetrators and to get revenge. It is also just as easy to react to our fears and feel hopeless and helpless.
One solution to terrorism that we don’t often hear about as much as we should, even within our own churches but especially from secular society, is the need to pray for our enemies. We really need to take this seriously. It is a mandate from Jesus himself that we must love and pray for our enemies (Matt 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36). Loving and praying for our enemies should go hand in hand. It has to start internally and individually and extend outward. To borrow the cliché: we are our own worst enemies.
On an individual level we need to examine our own prejudices and hatreds and work on a change in ourselves. Then we need to work on purging any negative attitudes that we have developed towards our families and immediate friends. Lastly, we have to recognize and acknowledge our neighbors, our fellow human beings, whomever and wherever they are and purge any enemy-creating feelings and attitudes that make us think of them as our “enemies.” We have to try to see Jesus in everyone.
Certainly there are those who, on an existential level, are truly our enemies. There are also those who we perceive as enemies due to our own weaknesses and prejudices. We view them as enemies by not seeing and loving them in a true Christian manner. We must love and pray for all of them.
We must also work for social justice. Prayer is not necessarily enough. We have to put our Christianity to work. Again, Jesus reminds us that what we do to one another we do to Him (Matt 25:31-45). Catholic teaching tells us that we have a responsibility to conduct “works of mercy” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2447). We have a responsibility to work against the acts like the ones mentioned above that can contribute to helplessness which is a breeding ground for terrorism.
So in these times when we are being bombarded with images of terror we must reflect upon what we can do to change the motivations of our enemies. We must love and pray for: ourselves as individuals and change our own enemy-creating actions; those who are our enemies on a temporal and spiritual level. We must also take action to relieve injustices.
The works of mercy are both spiritual and material in nature. In this Year of Mercy perhaps by focusing some of our energy towards our enemies we can reduce terrorism and all violence. By our prayers for our enemies and the alleviation of their sufferings we not only fully participate in in what this Jubilee Year is all about, we truly are participating in what we should be doing everyday as Christians.
Copyright 2015 Michael T. Carrillo
About the Author
Michael Carrillo is a retired police officer from a large California metropolitan police department. He is married to Vicki and they have five adult children between them. He is an unabashed fan of Jesuit education, though he regrets not obtaining one himself. Day hikes and walks give him opportunities and inspirations to look for and find God.