Who are the people with whom you don’t want to breathe the same air? On my list are the ferocious abortion advocates that drip hatred at the prolife movement. They tempt me to wish for a loophole on the Christian obligation to love everyone. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I love you” (John 15:12). But how can we possess that kind of love?
Jesus loved us enough to die for us, but how did he muster up love for those soldiers that nailed him to a cross and spit on him? Fr. John Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, Michigan, whose radio program Christ is the Answer focuses on Catholic teachings, addressed this quandary in a homily last year. The challenge, according to him, is to show love even for those we don’t like lest we fail to even know God. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” 1 John 4:8.
The way to love others like Jesus did, according to Fr. John, is through Holy Communion. “Our heart must be crushed and replaced with his heart,” he said. “It is through receiving the precious blood of Jesus. It’s as if God wants to give us a transfusion. He is putting his blood into our heart so it will look like his, because that is what he expects of us.”
Until that happens, Fr. John said, we will never have real joy because real joy comes from being overwhelmed by the love that God has for us, and in turn, overwhelming others with the love that we have received.
Suggestions to Love Difficult People.
Fr. John offered three suggestions to help us to love when it does not come easy.
1) Keep your Eyes on the Crucifix. Going forward for Communion, keep your eyes on the crucifix. “The heart that moved him to do that is at our disposal. It is being given to us so that we in turn will show it to others especially those we find difficult to love.”
2) Place Them on the Altar. There is no prayer greater than the Mass because it is the representation--sacramentally speaking-- of the gift of self, which Jesus made upon the cross. “If we will join our prayers to his, especially for those we find hard to love, then we look a lot like Jesus.”
3) Ask Jesus to Transform Your Heart. At the end of our lives, we will all be asked: “Did you let me transform your heart and make it more like mine so that you would bring my love into the world which is longing for it?”
A Lenten Challenge to Love Abortionists
Lent is an especially good time to transform our hearts, unite our sacrifices to the cross and love others. Last week, I received a Lenten appeal from
Eric J. Scheidler, the Executive Director of the Pro-Life Action League to pray and fast for three key figures at the heart of the Planned Parenthood baby parts scandal. “I would hope it will truly make a difference in the lives of Deborah Nucatola, Mary Gatter and Cecile Richards -- three women whose involvement with abortion, especially the harvesting and selling of aborted babies' body parts, reveals a profound need for repentance and mercy,” he said in an email interview.
We are also being asked to fast—a greater challenge-- for people that kill babies. “I know personally how spiritually powerful fasting is,” Scheidler explained. “Allowing our bodies to feel the discomfort of hunger, and coming through it to realize that "man does not live by bread alone," puts us in touch with the deepest truths about our spiritual nature.”
According to him, in a sense, we pray and fast not only for them, but also for ourselves – “to transform our own hearts, and teach ourselves to love these women as God loves them.”
By praying and fasting, Scheidler pointed out that it helps bring greater awareness that our battle is not against them as persons but between all God's children and the powers of darkness. “If our hearts are not broken for those who have dedicated themselves to the destruction of human life -- a great tragedy -- then we are not seeing things as God sees them,” he said. “Accepting hunger for someone else's sake, in a sense, forces you to care about them. It becomes a kind of physical reinforcement of your soul's best intentions in praying for them.”
As much as abortion activists make me uncomfortable, I am committed to praying for their salvation. They have souls that need saving and also have an enormous potential to greatly influence others against abortion if they convert.
Coincidentally, in union with Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy, I had already committed to praying a decade of the rosary and fasting on bread and water at lunch every Friday, as part of the #LentenMercyChallenge. So, for the remainder of the Fridays in Lent, I will pray and fast at lunch for those three women.
Jesus can transform our hearts if we let him, and with hearts like his, we cannot fail to make a difference through our prayers and fasting. I hope you will join me.