Is it possible to live the teachings of Jesus that we read and hear in today’s Gospel? “Love the people who are hardest to love, pray for people you don’t like, give things away, don’t ask for them back, let people take things, don’t ask for them back, let people strike you, don’t strike back, don’t judge, don’t condemn, be kind, forgive, and . . . do it all without expecting anything in return.”

I am wondering – Is this possible? Or is it idealistic or impossible? But then I reflect back on my life, and I see things differently. People do live these radical teachings! Jesus does not ask us to do difficult things. The most important thing we need to understand – is that to love, requires the willingness to forgive. Forgiveness is not isolated to a singular event, but rather, it is a way of life! The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “He who is devoid of the power to forgive… is devoid of the power to love.” Again, King said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” A reporter wanted Mother Teresa to clean the infested wound of a man on the street, he said, “I wouldn’t do what you do for a million dollars.” Mother replied, with a bit of a wry smile, “Neither would I.”

Let me share with you a meaningful story: A first-grade teacher had decided to let her class play a game. The teacher told each child in the class to bring along a plastic bag containing a few potatoes. Each potato would be given the name of a person that the child hates. So, the number of potatoes that a child will put in his/her plastic bag would depend on the number of people he/she hated. So, when the day came, every child brought some potatoes with the name of the people he/she hated. Some had 2 potatoes, some 3 while some up to 5 potatoes.

The teacher then told the children to carry the potatoes in the plastic bag with them wherever they go for a week. Day after day passed, and the children started to complain due to the unpleasant smell let out by the rotten potatoes. Besides, those having 5 potatoes also had to carry much heavier bags. After a week, the children were relieved because the game had finally ended.

The teacher asked: “How did you feel while carrying the potatoes with you for a week?” The children let out their frustrations and started complaining of the trouble that they had to go through having to carry the heavy and smelly potatoes wherever they went.

Then the teacher told them the hidden meaning behind the game. The teacher said: “This is exactly the situation when you carry your hatred for somebody inside your heart. The unpleasant smell of hatred will contaminate your heart, and you will carry it with you wherever you go. If you cannot tolerate the smell of rotten potatoes for just a week, can you imagine what is it like to have the unpleasant smell of hatred in your heart for your lifetime?”

The moral message of the story is: Throw away any hatred for anyone from our heart so that we will not be forced to carry that burden for a lifetime. Forgiving others is the best attitude to take. Negativity about someone will keep the peace of our minds away from us. Remember the good things about him/her, and let go of the hatred! As human persons, we all carry unnecessary pain and guilty feelings, and these make our lives difficult and we lose peace of mind.

Forgiveness gives us the freedom to love ourselves (in a healthy way) love God, and love others. We don’t need to have a heavy load on our back!

Today, we are living in a world where there is so much hated and revenge. We have created many enemies in the name of power and authority. Nations fight against nations and want to win battles over others. Families fight within families and destroy the blessedness of their homes. Members of the same family keep grudges against each other for petty reasons.

In order to be able to love our enemies, we should be able to say “yes” to both kinds of love; God loves me and people love me. Say “yes” to love, and then we will realize more and more that we are loved people. Such self-awareness and self-affirmation of love will make us better persons in forgiving and loving our enemies. We are loved, people. When you find it hard to love your enemies, say again and again to yourself: “I am a loved person.” Let us make this mantra a repeated prayer!

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